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Women who take abortion pills at higher risk of going to ER than those who have surgical abortions: study

Mifepristone or RU-486 abortion drug
A bottle and two pills of mifepristone, also known as RU-486, are seen in a handout photo. |

Women who undergo an abortion by taking pills to induce a miscarriage are at greater risk of having an emergency that requires immediate hospitalization than those who undergo a surgical abortion at a clinic, according to a recent study.

The journal article, published earlier this month by the publication Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology, was based on research funded by the pro-life group the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

Researchers with the Charlotte Lozier Institute analyzed data obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Chronic Condition Data Warehouse's Medicaid data.

They gathered information from 17 states with official policies that applied state funds to most abortions not covered by federal Medicaid from 1999 to 2015. They looked at a sample of 423,000 confirmed induced abortions and approximately 121,000 subsequent ER visits that happened within 30 days of the abortion.

According to the study, “ER visits are at greater risk to occur following a chemical rather than a surgical abortion,” with the trend increasing over the sampled time period.

“Emergency room visits following chemical abortions grew consistently as a percentage of all ER visits within 30 days of the procedure,” the study added.

“Abortion-related visits … remain stable at 4% to 5% of total ER visits for surgical abortions, reaching a high of 6.2% in 2015. This percentage is 8% to 9% between 2002 and 2013 for chemical abortions, with increases in 2014 to 2015 peaking at 14.6%.”

Chemical abortions also accounted for a higher percentage of emergency room visits that were “miscoded as a spontaneous abortion” than surgical abortions, according to the researchers.

“ER visits miscoded as a spontaneous abortion following a chemical abortion range between 2% and 3% of total visits from 2003 to 2012, increasing abruptly between 2013 and 2015 reaching 8.9%,” the study noted. “ER visits miscoded as a spontaneous abortion following a confirmed surgical abortion averaged less than 1% of all ER visits until 2008, 1.2%-1.3% from 2009 to 2014, and peaked at 2.4% in 2015.”

The study added that “chemical abortion is associated with more frequent emergency room visits of all kinds for the entire study period.”

“In addition, we found that ER visit rates per 1,000 abortion procedures increased consistently throughout the study period following both types of induced abortion, but the rates for mifepristone abortion visits grew faster, especially for abortion-related visits,” the researchers added.

Also known as a medical abortion, a chemical abortion involves a woman taking two drugs in the form of pills: mifepristone or RU-486, and misoprostol. Mifepristone works to block the effects of the natural pregnancy hormone progesterone, while Misoprostol induces contractions and a miscarriage.

In April, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would not enforce a requirement that abortion pills be dispensed in-person by a doctor. 

Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Dr. Janet Woodcock explained in a letter at the time that studies indicated that there were no “increases in serious safety concerns (such as hemorrhage, ectopic pregnancy, or surgical interventions) occurring with medical abortion as a result of modifying the in-person dispensing requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser released a statement denouncing the FDA's decision to ease the chemical abortion regulation.

“Pro-abortion activists have exploited the COVID-19 pandemic from the beginning, working to eliminate safety precautions in order to expand the proliferation of dangerous chemical abortion drugs,” Dannenfelser said back in April.

“This decision prioritizes abortion industry profits over the health and safety of women and puts the abortion extremism of the Biden-Harris administration on full display.”

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