Uh-Oh

March 18, 2006

Two more women have died while using the abortion pill, RU-486.

The causes of these deaths have not yet been disclosed. Prior abortion pill-related deaths were due to infection by a rare bacteria that can cause septic shock.

In Europe, where RU-486 is legal, there have been no such cases of infection. European women take the 2-pill regimen differently, and that is the first place  the CDC will be looking for possible answers:

In the method approved by the FDA — and still widely used in Europe — the second pill is taken orally. But in the United States, patients at virtually all clinics are taught to insert the second pill vaginally — based on studies that show this method is more effective and causes fewer unpleasant side effects.

No one should have to risk her life to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Safety is necessarily a prerequisite of legality. The tragedy of these women will be politicized, no doubt about that, rolled into a giant and indiscriminate anti-choice extravaganza.

In light of this development, I began to think of the women who died, usually from infection, before the procedure was made legal. I was googling around, and found this discussion about the dwindling number of “back alley abortion” deaths over time, thanks in part to the discovery of penicillin, improved obstetric care after WWII, the increase in doctor-performed abortions, and its legalization in key states.

UPDATE: I just read this post over at the Pesky’Apostrophe, which provides a little perspective:

Within two years of Viagra’s introduction, over 500 deaths were reported from its usage.