The anti-abortion movement is pressing the Trump administration to rescind changes and even more severely tighten restrictions on the abortion pill. (support circle / Flickr)
The anti-abortion movement has fought a long-standing battle against access to the abortion pill. In the 1980s, they threatened to boycott drug companies developing the drug. In the 1990s, they waged a campaign to block FDA approval of the pill; although finally approved in late 2000, severe restrictions were placed on distribution of the pill by the FDA.
After research showed that a lower dosage of 200 mginstead of 600 mgwas just as effective and caused fewer side effects, and that the drug could be used safely later into pregnancyuntil 70 days instead of 49anti-abortion advocates pressured the FDA for years to maintain the higher dosage and shorter timeline for usage of the pill.
Under the Obama administration, the FDA finally approved the lower dosage and longer timeline in 2016, but today the anti-abortion movement is pressing the Trump administration to rescind those changes and even more severely tighten restrictions on the abortion pill.
Through these campaigns to suppress theusage of the abortion pill, anti-abortion advocates have spread misleading and false information about the safety and efficacy of the abortion pill.
A glaring contemporary example of this strategy is the right-wing Family Research Council (FRC)s recent report, titled The Next Abortion Battleground: Chemical Abortion.
Founded in 1983 as a division of James Dobsons religious right organization Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council is now one of the far rights most powerful advocacy groups, fighting against abortion, stem cell research and LGBTQ equality, and promoting the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free and stable society.
The FRCs chemical abortion report is full of lies and misrepresentations, citing discredited research and junk science. The report uses inflammatory and misleading language, and is replete with hypocritical arguments.
One way FRC tries to mislead the public is by using inflammatory and alarmist language.
For example, they use the phrase chemical abortion to make abortion pills sound dangerouswhen in fact they are very safe.
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Throughout the report, they refer to embryos and fetuses as babies, and they describe misoprostol as a drug that yanks the baby out of the womb. They refer to medication abortion as a violent regimen. Their language is misleading and overwrought.
The FRC report repeatedly refers to the abortion industryan attempt to make doctors and other clinicians providing abortion health care sound nefarious and exploitative.
This extreme and inflammatory language demonizes people providing and having abortions. But FRC goes farther. They explicitly lie about the risks of medication abortion.
The FRC report is riddled with misrepresentations and outright lies about the safety of medication abortion. They claim that the abortion pill poses profound dangers to women. In fact, mifepristone is an extremely safe drug.
The FRC plucks from the mifepristone medication guide the rarest but most severe drug reactions and frames them as common. FRC cites discredited research and junk science, making the false claim that abortion causes depression, and then claims, without evidence, that medication abortion is uniquely traumatic to women, more so than aspiration abortion.
FRC inaccurately claims that mifepristone is subject to the FDAs drug safety programRisk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS)because it carries such life-threatening risks. In fact, mifepristone is subject to the REMS restriction because of politics, not safety concerns. Mifepristone issix times safer than Viagrawhich the FDA does not restrict under the REMS program.
The REMS restriction means that mifepristone cannot be distributed through pharmacies like most other drugs. Instead, only doctors registered with the manufacturer can dispense the pill to their patients.
Throughout the report, the FRC inaccurately argues that removing the FDA REMS restriction would lead to the abortion pill being available over the counter, making do-it-yourself abortions the norm. In fact, in the absence of the REMS restriction, the abortion pill would be treated like most other drugsavailable at pharmacies by prescription, under the supervision of a doctor. Simply removing the FDA REMS restriction would not result in do-it-yourself abortion.
At the end of their report, the FRC calls on the FDA to strengthen restrictions on the abortion pill, prohibit telemedicine abortion and require doctors to conduct unnecessary physical examinations of patients receiving the abortion pill. These barriers would significantly decrease access to medication abortion and increase the costs.
FRC also calls for the criminal prosecution of Rebecca Gomperts of AID Access, who assists people in obtaining and using the abortion pill, as well as cracking down on online pharmacies that sell the pill.
Finally, they call for shutting down Gynuity Health Projects TelAbortion study, which allows an exception to the REMS restriction in certain states.
In fact, they are terrified of the power and control that the abortion pill puts into womens hands. They hate the way that medication abortion can avoid the obstacles and restrictions they have constructed over the last 47 years since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States.
A cheap, widely accessible abortion pill that women could obtain through the mail and take in the privacy of their own homes would mean anti-abortion extremists would lose the opportunity to harass and yell at women going into and out of clinics, terrorizing them with their abuse.
The National Womens Health Network is leading a campaign to raise awareness about the FDA restrictions on the abortion pill, pressure the FDA to lift the restrictions, and make the abortion pill more widely available. You can find resources for the campaign on their website, which they encourage people to share widely using the hashtag #MailTheAbortionPill.
Public policy must be based on medical science and genuine concern for womens healthnot on the lies, misrepresentations and hypocrisy of hate groups like the Family Research Council.
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Lies and Hypocrisy: Anti-Abortion Arguments to Restrict the Abortion Pill - Ms. Magazine
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