The Food and Drug Administration quietly expanded abortion access Wednesday. While we usually think of abortion being controlled by laws and court cases, this change was a careful relabel aimed at increasing access to the abortifacient mifepristone, or RU-486. The FDA approved its use up to 70 days after a woman’s last menstrual cycle began, up from the previous 49-day limit.
Several states, in an effort to protect women and their babies, limit medical prescriptions for abortion-inducing drugs to only FDA-approved medications used as directed. RU-486 is a common choice for medical abortions: “According to the manufacturer, since its approval, more than 2.75 million women in the United States have taken mifepristone to end a pregnancy early in its gestation, choosing it over ‘surgical’ abortion that involves dilation and curettage.”
While RU-486 use now comprises one-fourth of abortions, it’s not without significant risks for the mother, such as “Heavy bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and painful uterine contractions. About 2% hemorrhage and more than 1 in a 100 require hospitalization.” In addition, “For 4-5% of women, the pills don’t work, making them return for surgical abortions.”
Beyond the risks to the mother, there are the obvious consequences for the baby—that is, death. Three weeks after fertilization—which, given the usual timeline of a woman’s fertility cycle is approximately five weeks before the FDA’s new RU-486 cutoff—a baby already has a beating heart. We are not talking about contraception here, but the planned termination of a child with a tiny heart.
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