Health & Spirit

Future of pill-induced abortion: Women can already receive pills by mail in 4 states, what's next?

Nara Schoenberg, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Health & Fitness

A 2012 article in Obstetrics and Gynecology, co-authored by Raymond, found that the risk of death associated with childbirth (8.8 deaths per 100,000 live births) was approximately 14 times higher than the risk of death associated with abortion (0.6 deaths per 100,000 live births). The authors didn't do a detailed analysis of the risk of pill-based vs. surgical abortion, but noted that mifepristone's U.S. distributor had identified 11 pregnancy-related deaths among the 1.6 million U.S. women who had used the drug since 2000. That would translate to 0.7 deaths per 100,000 abortion-pill users.

Foes are looking to the work of Dr. George Delgado, a San Diego-area family physician and abortion pill reversal pioneer. Pill reversal has led to the births of more than 350 babies, and about 100 to 150 women are currently pregnant after pill reversal, according to Delgado.

The number of women using pill reversal is small relative to the approximately 270,000 women per year who get pill-based abortions, and a 2015 article in the journal Contraception called abortion pill reversal an "unproven therapy."

The authors of the article found that many pregnancies continue after a woman takes mifepristone alone, even without abortion pill reversal: anywhere from 8 percent to 46 percent. That compares to 57 percent to 67 percent of women (in a single study of "poor quality") who were able to continue their pregnancies after abortion pill reversal.

But for anti-abortion advocates, the power of the approach goes beyond the numbers. Delgado was a keynote speaker at the National Right to Life Convention in 2015, and his approach has led to news coverage, including a recent Sacramento Bee article accompanied by an online video titled "Woman says abortion reversal procedure saved her baby."

Gynuity hopes to expand its medication-by-mail study to more states this year, and Coeytaux is working on a Plan C study that would allow California women to get abortion medication by mail without blood tests or an ultrasound.

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The battle is playing out on fields large and small, from state legislatures to abortion clinics in snowy stretches of rural Maine.

Coplon, the Maine Family Planning abortion director, sees potential for pill-based telemedicine in a new generation of abortion patients who are at home with internet access. She also sees the passion of the opposition. Like many abortion providers, she encounters protesters outside her clinic. Among the signs they plant in the ground these days is one advertising abortion pill reversal.

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