Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged the deaths of a 29-year-old woman in 2008 and a 21-year-old in 2009 in a letter that appeared in the Sept. 30 online issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. Their deaths bring to eight the number of women in the United States who have died after using RU 486, according to the CDC.
The abortion drug reached its 10th anniversary in the United States with the news that it has not proved to be as popular as its proponents expected, USA Today reported. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved RU 486 for U.S. marketing on Sept. 28, 2000.
RU 486, also known as mifepristone, is used as the first part in a two-step process in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his or her death. A different drug, misoprostol, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes a woman's uterus to contract, expelling her baby.
"Abortion proponents claim that abortions should be 'safe, legal and rare,'" said Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. "Yet RU 486 use is increasing and its safety record is entirely dubious, as these two deaths prove."
More than 1.2 million American women have used RU 486, Danco Laboratories, its U.S. marketer, reported, according to USA Today. The drug is used in 20 percent of U.S. abortions performed in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, said Lawrence Finer of the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research organization, the newspaper reported.
Yet, Finer said, "We haven't seen as much expansion in terms of where one can obtain it as we thought we might."
In 2009, Finer co-authored a report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology that said, "Mifepristone has not brought a major improvement in the geographic availability of abortion." No abortion provider is available in 97 percent of non-metropolitan American counties, according to the Abortion Access Project, USA Today reported.
The FDA approved in mid-August what pro-life advocates describe as another abortion drug. The agency gave approval to "ella" as emergency contraception, saying it functions primarily to restrict or postpone ovulation. Pro-life organizations, however, say "ella" is more closely related to RU 486 than to emergency contraceptives Plan B and Next Choice, which are already on the market.
The FDA approved "ella" as emergency contraception "despite the fact that it shares an almost identical chemical make-up and identical modes of action with RU 486," Monahan said. "Given the strong resemblance, there is reason to believe that the negative side effects will also be similar. Women should not be the 'guinea pigs' of the abortion industry or the government."
RU 486, or mifepristone, is marketed under the brand name Mifeprex in the United States.
Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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