Abortion procedure legal in U.S. draws ire in England

LONDON (BP) -- An abortion procedure in use for 17 years in the U.S. is drawing ire from a Christian medical group as England prepares to adopt the practice by year's end.

iStock
Under the new plan, women in England will be allowed to take at home the second dose of the pharmaceutical combo commonly called the abortion pill, BBC news reported Aug. 25. Currently in England, both oral doses of the abortion pill must be administered in medical clinics, normally between 24 and 48 hours apart.

"Home abortions," according to the interdenominational Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) of London, "pose a serious threat to women's health" and should be carefully weighed before implementation.

The CMF cites "the largest and most accurate study of medical abortions," a 2009 Finnish study of 42,600 women, evidencing four times as many serious complications after taking the abortion pill compared to surgical abortions, 20 percent compared with 5.6 percent respectively.

"This is just one step towards a longer term goal for abortion lobbyists, to make abortions as easy as possible, using nurses, pharmacists and internet suppliers, and to remove legal restrictions on abortion," bioethicist and CMF head of public policy Philippa Taylor said in an Aug. 27 press release. "Abortion providers have obvious financial and ideological vested interests in increasing numbers of abortions. And our Government knows that it is cheaper to pay for a couple of pills than a surgical abortion."

According to the Finnish study, "both methods of abortion are generally safe, but medical termination is associated with a higher incidence of adverse events," including excessive bleeding and incomplete abortions. The incidence of death was about the same, 1.7 percent, in both procedures, the study concluded.

Promoters of England's new law, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) in London, cite that England trails other nations such as Scotland and Wales in approving at-home administration of the second dose of the abortion pill.

The Southern Baptist Convention has long opposed both surgical and medical abortions, adopting its first resolution against abortion in the 1970s. At the 2018 SBC Annual Meeting in Dallas, messengers approved a resolution "Reaffirming The Full Dignity of Every Human Being," denouncing "every act of abortion except to save the mother's physical life."

In the U.S., abortion providers began distributing the second dose of the abortion pill for home use as early as 2001, just a year after the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, according to the Guttmacher Institute. While the FDA approved the drug for administration in a clinic or medical facility, legal off-label use of the drug was prevalent among 83 percent of providers by 2001, Guttmacher said.

Today, only three North American states require that both doses of the drug be administered in a clinic, namely North Dakota, Ohio and Texas, Guttmacher reported in its August update of abortion legislation. Similar laws in Oklahoma and Arkansas are not in use, blocked by court order.

Guttmacher describes the abortion pill as "highly effective" with a 92-95 percent success rate. Between 2000 and 2011 in the U.S., the institute said, 612 of the 1.52 million women who used the abortion pill (Mifiprex) were hospitalized. Most often, the women suffered excessive bleeding and had to receive blood transfusions. While eight women died from severe infections after taking the drug in the same period, the FDA determined the drug didn't cause the infections.

Aside from any medical efficacy of the drug itself, Taylor said at-home dosing is inherently risky.

"With self-administered pills, there is no control over who takes the pills," Taylor said, whether the pills are taken as prescribed, or whether the user is in a vulnerable, abusive or coercive relationship. The CMF describes itself at cmf.org/uk as an organization "to encourage and equip Christian doctors and nurses to live and speak for Jesus Christ."

GuideStone Financial Resources, the SBC health and financial benefits entity, won final approval July 17 in its lengthy fight against the abortion/contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. In its victory, GuideStone will not be required to offer insurance coverage of abortion-inducing medications.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP).
Download Story