By PPL Board Member, Patricia Lee June, M.D
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14
“Chemical” vs “Surgical” Abortion: Is there a difference?
While the techniques of chemical and surgical abortions differ, all induced abortions* begin with a living mother and a child living within her (children in the case of twins, etc) and intentionally kill that child. In the sight of God, does it matter whether the killing is caused by a poison or by suction machine or forceps? How can the method make a difference? In either case, a human made in the image of God is destroyed.
How does the Abortion Pill work?
The “Abortion Pill” actually consists of 2 different pills. Mifepristone/Mifeprix/RU-486 inhibits the action of progesterone, a hormone produced initially by cells in the ovary that surrounded the egg, and later by the baby’s placenta. Progesterone is needed to keep the uterine lining in place and the placenta attached to it. When mifepristone is taken, progesterone is blocked and the placenta separates and the embryo/baby starves and suffocates to death. About 75% of the time, mifepristone alone is sufficient to kill the baby. To achieve a higher death rate, a second drug is given 24 hours later. This is misoprostol/Cytotec, an anti-ulcer drug that has a side effect of opening the cervix (mouth of the uterus) so that the baby is expelled. (This drug is used legitimately to help induce labor when a baby is full-term.). There can be significant cramping and bleeding from the Cytotec. Currently rules limit use to the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, though there are reports of much later use.
Can the abortion pill be reversed?
Unlike surgical abortions, sometimes “chemical” abortions can be reversed, though not if both pills have been taken. If just the mifepristone was taken, overwhelming it with a huge dose of progesterone can often block the anti-progesterone action of the pill. If started within 24 hours after taking mifepristone, it is about 67% successful at saving the life of the baby – more so the older the baby is. It can work as late as 72 hours after mifepristone, though the success rate is lower. The current protocol is for progesterone to be given daily for a couple of months. Details are available from AbortionPillReversal.Com
Late term (second trimester) surgical abortions are often preceded by placing dilating agents in the cervix for a day or two. If these are removed before surgery is started, sometimes the fetus can be saved. About 100 babies a year are born alive after attempted late term abortions.
What are the risks?
The 2 pill chemical abortion combination is almost always fatal to the developing embryo (babies in medical terminology are called “fetuses” after 10 weeks), but sometimes the baby survives; sometimes only part of the baby is passed with some parts being retained in the uterus (an incomplete abortion) in which case a follow-up D&C/surgical abortion is needed.
Short term risks include bleeding (sometimes a transfusion is needed) and sepsis (severe infection that can lead to death). Long term risks to the mother include a higher death rate than is seen with childbirth for at least 10 years, depression and suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, breast cancer (especially if she has not previously given birth to a full-term baby), and if the chemicals do not result in the whole baby and placenta being born and a surgical procedure is needed (7% of the time), there is an increased risk to future children of being born extremely prematurely.
Are there increased risks to DIY/telemed abortions?
The maternal mortality rate for abortions decreased once testing and treating for sexually transmitted infections became routine, as did subsequent infertility. In abortion facilities, testing for ectopic pregnancy (which is a leading cause of maternal death) is standard of care, as is testing for Rh factor. [What is your blood type? O+ or A-? The + or – refers to the Rh factor. When a person with Rh negative blood is exposed to RH positive blood, they develop antibodies to it. If an Rh- mom has a baby with an Rh+ dad, if the baby is Rh+, a few of the baby’s red blood cells will cross the placenta into the mom and she will start making antibodies to the Rh factor. This is usually slow enough that her first baby is not significantly affected, but with subsequent babies she rapidly makes lots of antibodies which cross the placenta and destroy the baby’s blood. This was a major problem until by the 1970’s when Rhogam was developed – Rh antibodies which if given to the mom, destroy the baby’s Rh+ cells in the mom’s blood before she turns on her own antibody making machine. That is why we test all pregnant women for Rh factor and give those who are Rh- a dose of Rhogam during pregnancy and again after delivery if the baby tests Rh+. If a woman has a spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) at any stage of pregnancy, standard of care is to test her and give her Rhogam if she is Rh-.]
Do telemed or mail-order abortions test for sexually transmitted diseases? Will we see a future epidemic of infertility related to these untreated infections? Do they test for Rh factor? Will we again start seeing babies with massive swelling and anemia and bilirubin damage to their brains, needing multiple transfusions both before birth and exchange tranfusions after birth? It will be years before we know the answers to these questions.
Women considering abortion are wise to gather reliable medical information about the risks to themselves, but that brings us back to the question asked at the beginning of this article. In God’s sight, does the method make a difference? All abortions destroy a human being made in the image of God. The real question to ask is what does God have planned for the life of this tiny human being?
“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:15-16
*[Spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) also result in the death of a child, but no one did anything to cause the death of the child; after 20 weeks, the spontaneous death of a child inside the mother is referred to as an “intrauterine fetal death”; neither of these are a part of this discussion of intentional abortions.]