SB 371, the bill that will change how medication abortions are offered in Indiana, requiring the state’s only non-surgical abortion clinic to rebuild as a surgical abortion provider, still hasn’t been heard in the state House. To prepare for the day it arrives, Indiana Right to Life (IRTL) is leading a public relations campaign to try and paint RU-486 as a dangerous drug that kills and maims women—even though the group’s own evidence points to the contrary.
“The Food and Drug Administration approved RU-486 for U.S. use in 2000. Unlike taking a Tylenol for a simple backache, RU-486 is a serious drug with serious risks. Through April 2011, the FDA lists deaths from RU-486 in the double digits, hospitalizations in triple digits and total adverse cases in the thousands,” wrote IRTL Communications Director Becky Rogness in a recent letter to the editor. The danger theme also shows up in the group’s “not simple, not safe” graphic, which alludes to the 14 women who allegedly died of complications from taking the drug between September 2000 and April 2011.
That would be 14 people out of the 1.52 million people who took the drug during that period.
IRTL claims that RU-486 is a hazardous drug that is “unlike … Tylenol.” But during a similar 10-year period, the Food and Drug Administration reported 458 deaths and 26,000 hospitalizations from taking acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. There have been 14 deaths and 614 hospitalizations linked to RU-468. Yet IRTL focuses on the latter as a safety issue.
Even more disingenuous is the group’s claim that that SB 371 is meant to address safety. When representatives discuss the bill, they conveniently refrain from discussing why it could close down the only clinic in the state that provides only medication abortions: The bill would require the clinic to have larger doors for hospital gurney access, on-site sedation and anesthetic equipment, and other expensive requirements. These requirements ignore the fact that with a medication abortion, no actual procedure takes place in the building. People obtain and take pills at the clinic, but it takes at least a few hours for an abortion to actually occur—that is one of the reasons patients choose medication abortion in the first place.
IRTL bemoans a lack of “oversight” of medication abortion, and they claim SB 371 will address that issue. But they have yet to explain how wider doorways and available anesthetic equipment will keep women who are in an office only to take a pill safer. They’ve yet to explain it, because they can’t.