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Coercive abortions are at the heart of the FDA abortion pill case

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the abortion pill was complicated, but it makes several things clearer.

First, mail-order abortion pills are not safe. Second, the FDA likely failed to follow the law in loosening safety standards on these pills. To that I would add this: Mail-order abortion fuels and expands the epidemic of unwanted abortions.

As this case is likely headed to the Supreme Court, I hope all the judges and the public consider what the data say about coerced and unsafe abortion.

My latest peer-reviewed research on this crisis shows that almost 70 percent of women with a history of abortion describe it as coerced, unwanted or contrary to their own preferences and values. In many cases, the pressure to abort escalates into emotional or physical abuse

The FDA’s recent approval of mail-order abortions only increases this danger. Now, anyone can obtain and stockpile abortion pills for use against women who refuse to abort voluntarily.  This is no frivolous or merely theoretical concern, as there are already known cases of abortion pills being slipped into pregnant women’s drinks.

Surely it is not the FDA’s intent to directly aid abusers and sex-traffickers. But it is also clear that they are willing to accept this collateral damage in exchange for making access to abortion slightly easier. As the FDA’s lawyer admitted during oral arguments, “No doctor has to be involved.” And that points to what is really driving the FDA’s agenda: a march toward ever faster, cheaper and unlimited access to more abortions.

Why do I accuse the FDA of ignoring the health of individual women in favor of a social policy favoring higher abortion rates than women would freely choose on their own? Because the history of the movement to legalize abortion reveals that it was driven by eugenicists and population controllers

Lawrence Lader, co-founder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL), claimed credit for convincing Betty Friedan and her National Organization of Women to embrace “a woman’s right to control her own body” as a basis for joining in his efforts in support of legalized abortion. While Lader exploited pro-woman rhetoric, in fact, he was a radical population control advocate, more than willing to risk women’s well-being in exchange for lower birth rates.

According to Lader: “In a larger sense, each woman who decides whether or not a fetus should become a child affects the population charts.” Therefore, he argued, increasing abortion rates was essential to reduce the social burden of the “unwanted classes” and the related risk of “the violent rebellion of minority groups.”

Similar motives were revealed in what became a world changing letter from Ron Weddington, now archived in the Clinton Library.  Weddington, who had been co-counsel in Roe v. Wade with his wife, Sarah, captured President Clinton’s attention. Weddington argued that there was an urgent need to “eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country” since “26 million food stamp recipients is more than the economy can stand.”

Taking the president into a sly confidence, Weddington wrote: “There, I’ve said it. It’s what we all know is true.” And although he did not intend to “eliminate” them by rounding them up at gunpoint, as he added quickly, he wanted to do so through a massive propaganda effort and direct government involvement to increase abortion rates, especially among the poor.

This was less than 20 years after North Carolina’s eugenics program had forcibly sterilized more than 7,000 people.

The key to Weddington’s plan was to license Roussel-Uclaf’s new abortion pill to a non-profit group, to “eliminate the need for product liability insurance.” Almost immediately, Clinton began negotiations with Roussel-Uclaf to do precisely that. In a parallel effort, as described in a Mother Jones profile, Lawrence Lader and his population control comrades began their own FDA-approved abortion pill testing.

Ultimately, the RU-486 license was given to the Population Council, founded by eugenicists John D. Rockefeller III and Frederick Osborn, a founding member of the American Eugenics Society. During World War II, the word “eugenics” fell into disfavor. The purpose of the Population Council was to advance and rebrand eugenic objectives within the lexicon of population control and to blaze the way toward repeal of abortion laws.

To these ends, Clinton ordered the FDA to bring the abortion pill to market as speedily as possible. The FDA’s accelerated approval process included abridged investigations of both efficacy and safety. Efficacy was not measured by any evidence of improvement of women’s physical, emotional or social well-being, but judged purely on how many abortions were completed without the need for subsequent surgical interventions.

Safety was judged only by immediate physical complications, voluntarily and selectively reported by abortion providers. There was no investigation of any long-term physical risks, much less any consideration of the evidence showing that abortion contributes to negative psychological effects, especially among women pressured to abort.

Nor did the FDA ever require a systematic investigation of mortality rates, even after it was shown that literally all record linkage studies have found an elevated risk of premature death following abortion, including a six-fold increased risk of suicide.

In short, the FDA has stubbornly refused to consider the frequency of unwanted abortions and the harms they cause to women. Even after the 2008 report of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion identified 15 risk factors that reliably identify which women will have the most negative reactions to abortion, one of which is “perceived pressure from others” to abort, the FDA failed to require any screening for these risk factors. They are not even mentioned in the pill’s package insert warnings.

Instead, the FDA is happy to embrace the lie that abortions occur only when women freely want them. But the evidence shows that most abortions are pushed on women contrary to their own personal values and preferences.

These facts informed the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine’s suit against the FDA. These doctors know and treat countless victims of unwanted, unsafe and unnecessary abortions every day. They know that it is largely for ideological reasons that the FDA has turned a blind eye to abortion’s negative effects on individual women.

Women deserve better. I hope the Supreme Court will agree. 

David C. Reardon, director of the Elliot Institute, is an associate scholar at Charlotte Lozier Institute and the author of “Making Abortion Rare: A Healing Strategy for a Divided Nation” and other books and peer-reviewed studies.

Tags abortion Clinton mifepristone RU-486