Conservatives recently answered the years-long campaign by progressives to normalize late-term abortions by passing legislation of their own in several states that place restrictions on abortions, such as disallowing the procedure once a heartbeat is detected or making abortions illegal past the first trimester if neither the life of the mother nor the child is in danger. The most restrictive legislation passed in Alabama in May and it very nearly outlaws the practice altogether. Many on both sides of the debate believe the Alabama law was expressly intended to force the issue of abortion back before the Supreme Court.
But progressives have other tricks up their sleeves when it comes to protecting what is arguably their most coveted policy idea. There are abortion techniques already available that states like California are beginning to heavily push - often on college campuses - which may change the face of the debate. They’re called “medication abortions”, sometimes commonly referred to a “day after” or abortion pills. California has just introduced legislation that would mandate state schools make them available to students.
But a team of behavioral neuroscientists have written a study that shows even medication abortion can lead to significant negative emotional and biological effects in women.
The three-year study was led by neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Sammut of Franciscan University and essentially makes the case that the biological and behavioral consequences of abortion occur even when a woman ends her pregnancy via medication. In fact, Sammut’s study indicated that abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol led to side effects such as depression, loss of appetite, anxiety, and decreased self-care.
“Our study clearly indicates that there are negative consequences to terminating a viable pregnancy using mifepristone and misoprostol,” Sammut told TownHall. “This was evident in the overall negative effects on the well-being of the animals [in the study who were] administered the drugs to terminate pregnancy. These animals also displayed depression and anxiety-like behaviors.”
Sammut said animals in the study given the abortion medication that were not pregnant showed no such negative effects, nor did animals that experienced a natural miscarriage.
“Given that animal models are used at the pre-clinical level to give us some understanding of what we could expect in a human (because of the similarities in physiology and neurophysiology), our study clearly indicates that there is great reason for concern that mental health could potentially be significantly affected by the physiological effects of the induced pregnancy termination,” Sammut said.
Sammut says his study should inform the debate about medication abortion, particularly as it relates to the availability of over-the-counter abortion medication and/or making these drugs — of which at least one is still under a cloud of suspicion by some researchers regarding its FDA approval says Sammut — easily available to college students via a mandate.
“It is alarming to think that these drugs could be easily acquired given the potential for negative consequences of medical abortion as indicated by our study (at the preclinical level) and the insufficient/absent research at the preclinical level of the potential consequences of drug-induced abortion on the body, the brain and consequently behavior of the mother,” Sammut says. “Hormones have a powerful influence on our body, our immune system, our brain and ultimately our behavior, and drugs such as mifepristone, that interfere with hormonal function, should be treated with great caution and prudence and administered with great care.”
Given that there are more and more articles appearing indicating a “boom” coming in “self-managed” abortions — a euphemistically nice way of saying medication abortion — Sammut’s study comes at the right time for young women who might be misled into believing these methods of abortion are safe alternatives to surgical abortion.
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.