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Why Chemical Abortion Regulations Must Be
a Pro-Life Priority
Jessica Warner | 14 January 2021
Ohio’s abortion numbers have dropped drastically over the last decade. Half of Ohio’s abortion facilities have closed, and our abortion rate has decreased by over 30%. [i] In fact, in the 2019 Ohio Induced Abortion Report, abortions in Ohio were recorded at their lowest numbers since recording began in 1976. [ii] The pro-life movement has gained unprecedented ground in Ohio. However, a closer look at Ohio’s abortion statistics show a startling trend. The number of chemical abortions in Ohio-and across the rest of the U.S.- is skyrocketing.
Chemical abortions have been on the rise for several years now, both in Ohio, where they were up by 16%+ in 2018 and 26%+ in 2019, and nationally as well.[iii] Of all abortions committed in the U.S., chemical abortions comprise an estimated 41%- and that percentage continues to climb upward. In 2018, those 33 states that reported the annual number of chemical abortions committed saw an increase of 9% from 2017. During that same period, surgical abortions and those abortions committed using other methods saw a 3% decrease. [iv]
These stats reveal a change in the abortion industry's business model. As surgical abortions have become no longer financially lucrative, the abortion industry has pivoted to focus increasingly on chemical abortions.
Their path forward is twofold: increase the availability of chemical abortions via remote means, such as telemedicine, and strike down the FDA's Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS), vital safeguards which regulate how the abortion pill can be dispensed. Successful pro-life incrementalism has curbed the culminative number of abortions committed in states like Ohio. Still, telemedicine abortions and the potential removal of FDA protections threaten to make abortions easier-and more dangerous- to obtain than ever before.
In particular, Planned Parenthood has focused its efforts on expanding these chemical abortions to be committed via webcam in what are called Telemedicine Abortions. Much like everything else in our increasingly digital world, abortions are now being done through what amounts to a little more than a zoom call. Convenience, rather than patient safety, is the word of the day.
New state laws limiting chemical abortions that include regulations like Ohio Right to Life’s recent Telemedicine Abortion Ban, which was signed into law early this year, are vital in combatting this growing trend. [v] In fact, it was during opponent testimony for this bill that Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio admitted to having been committing chemical abortions via telemedicine for nearly two years. [vi] Before the Telemedicine Abortion Ban’s introduction, it had been unknown that the process was occurring in Ohio at all. Much about Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine abortion process is still unknown, including exactly how many of these risky procedures have occurred in Ohio. However, Ohio’s 2019 Induced Abortion Report reveals the motive behind the abortion industry’s push to expand chemical abortions and get around- simply eliminate- safety regulations.
Since half of the state’s facilities closed and overall abortion numbers dropping, Planned Parenthood is now using their more widespread Health Centers, which formerly only did “abortion referrals” to the larger metropolitan area surgical abortion area facilities, as outposts in the chemical abortion process. [vii] A good example of this are the abortions committed in Ohio's Richland and Mahoning counties. Although neither county has an abortion facility, both have a Planned Parenthood Health Center. According to the report, 50 and 62 chemical abortions were committed in each county, respectively. It is not possible to confirm with complete certainty due to Ohio's current reporting laws that these abortions were committed by telemedicine. Given what we know, it seems to be one of the only possibilities. Both Richland and Mahoning's Planned Parenthood facilities are located in isolated areas of the state, about an hour away from any other abortion facility.
This, it turns out, forms the crux of the abortion industry's fixation on chemical abortions. Chemical abortions allow the abortion industry to reach more vulnerable women- especially those in more isolated or rural areas- and profit by ending their unborn babies' lives- even if pro-life incrementalism has succeeded in closing facilities and lowering abortion rates. With chemical abortion recklessly available, the abortion industry can increase profits and decrease overhead- all at the expense of patient safety.
That is why we at Ohio Right to Life are working with SBA List, Americans United for Life, and several other national pro-life groups this year to pass comprehensive chemical abortion safeguards. Although Ohio has already banned abortions that are committed using telemedicine, the industry’s next line of attack will be to strike down the FDA’s REMS safeguards. With the new pro-abortion administration and a lawsuit against the FDA’s chemical abortion regulations making its way through the courts, we will likely see these basic protections removed. Telemedicine abortions compromised a way to get around the FDA’s safeguards. But with the REMS struck down, chemical abortion would become even more of a free-for all- at the expense of women’s safety and countless of innocent unborn lives.
Ohio's lowering of overall abortion rates and obvious pro-life momentum is something to celebrate. Still, the parabola of abortion rates may swing upward again across the U.S. if other states, along with Ohio, do not prioritize curbing chemical abortion expansion. Upholding chemical abortion regulations should be of pressing concern to the pro-life movement.
Formerly profound barriers in geography suddenly become insignificant if the abortion pill regimen can be proscribed by any nurse or doctor by whatever means is most convenient. More helpless children will die, and more women will be left to deal with the harrowing chemical abortion process alone and potentially hours away from medical help. In rural scenarios, a lengthy response time could mean help comes too late for a woman who is hemorrhaging, a common complication caused by the abortion pill.
Pro-abortion activists will say that making abortion more accessible to women by remotely dispensing drugs and erasing safety measures will improve women’s health outcomes. But given that 24 women have died and thousands more have been injured from chemical abortions since the method was first introduced in the U.S. in 2000, it seems incredibly ignorant to believe that either of those measures are even remotely in the best interests of women’s health. [viii]
Finally, it is worth noting that over the years, those of the pro-choice persuasion have touted the threat of women being subjected to dangerous "back-alley abortions" as a valid reason for allowing abortion to remain legal. However, the abortion industry's consistent prioritization of padding their bottom lines at the expense of basic health and safety standards suggests that the pro-choice agenda's allegiance lies not with women but with expanded abortion at any cost. Unregulated chemical abortions will subject women to a type of new "back-alley abortion," in which women are left alone to bleed out or die of deadly infections, not in a make-shift abortion facility, but possibly in their own homes. It has become clear that the abortion industry cannot and will not police itself. The fates of women and their vulnerable babies are at the mercy of the pro-life movement's ability to resist and regulate the expansion of these deadly drugs.
As the abortion industry pivots to push the abortion pill by any means necessary, it becomes even more imperative that the pro-life movement prioritize our fight against chemical abortions. The abortion industry's calloused treatment of human life, so obviously displayed in their killing of unborn babies, now more than ever is endangering vulnerable women as well. In using webcams to proscribe deadly drugs and relentlessly pushing to strike down safety measures, the abortion industry has revealed its true agenda. Spreading abortion takes priority over health, safety, and vulnerable lives.
[vii] See https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/oh and https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion/the-abortion-pill/how-do-i-get-the-abortion-pill#:~:text=Planned%20Parenthood%20health%20centers%20offer,private%20and%20secure%20video%20connection.
Director of Legislative Affairs at Ohio Right to Life