Abortion Drugs Are Safe And Effective
Abortion is in the news again, this time because a federal judge in the United States has invalidated the FDA approval for one of the main medications used in medical abortions, mifepristone. This may have wide-reaching impacts on the availability of medical abortions in the US, with one of the most common options for medical abortions soon to be hard if not impossible for patients to access.
I’ve written about abortion before, and as ever I don’t think I’m a particularly useful expert when it comes to either the legal or moral implications of making safe abortion harder to access. Barring a medical miracle, I’ll personally never have to have an abortion, and when it comes to discussions on the legal status of US pharmaceuticals I am about as useful as the average poorly-maintained garden fence.
That being said, there is one issue that seems to be very pertinent in the current environment which is very much within my expertise to assess — the risks of medical abortion. Much of the discussion in the US, and the court case itself, seems to hinge on the idea that medical abortions are extremely harmful for the people who get them, and that’s a factual claim which we can assess.
So let’s look at the evidence, and why it shows that medical abortions are extremely safe and effective.
Whenever you read about abortions of any kind, you’ll see countless anecdotes about individuals who’ve had bad experiences. Without diminishing those people and their pain, it’s important to remember that at a population level stories like this tell us little about the overall rates of harms associated with any particular medical intervention.
In terms of the claims made for the population impact of abortions, there are generally two main themes:
- Medical abortions have…