Much to the delight of abortion advocates, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has loosened its guidelines for the powerful abortion drug, RU-486/Mifepristone, marketed as "Mifeprex." It may now officially be used up to 70 days gestational age, rather than 49, and administered by non-physicians where allowed by state law - including nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants.
Think about that for a moment: 70 days. That means that, since conception occurs around two weeks after a woman's last period, the child in her womb could be eight weeks along in development. That's three-quarters of the way through the first trimester.
At that stage, the baby's heart has been beating for five weeks, and has grown up to an inch and a half long. Her arms bend at the elbow, toes have formed, and she possesses all the organs she will have in adulthood. This is obviously not the so-called "morning-after pill," though often confused with it. It is the "70-day-after" pill for destroying an innocent, developing human being.
How does this drug cause a chemical abortion? Mifeprex first starves the developing child by cutting off her nourishment in the womb. But using that drug alone can lead to "incomplete" abortions, putting women at risk of life-threatening infections.
So Misoprostol is typically given to induce contractions, expelling the developing child, and thus "completing" the abortion. If that combination of drugs still does not "work," then she must undergo a second abortion, this time surgical. Past experience suggests this is often done when the drugs are taken beyond 49 days, as the guidelines now allow.
The chemical abortion can take days to finish its lethal work. Depending on how far along she is in her pregnancy, the woman may bleed profusely, most likely passing her tiny unborn child at home or another setting without medical care. Some will even see or catch their tiny, but recognizably human, children when they pass. Who is there for women physically, emotionally, spiritually, when they're confronted with the reality that a "medical abortion" is more complicated than it first seemed?
What if she regrets her decision? Can it be reversed? While there are no guarantees, reversals may be possible after taking the drugs in some cases. But time is of the essence, and not every doctor is yet equipped to help save the baby's life.
The vast majority of doctors don't perform surgical abortions. Sadly, more may be willing to administer Mifeprex because it's less burdensome for them.
Abortion advocates welcome this "side effect" of the new protocol. "Far from wanting abortion to be 'rare', abortion advocates are celebrating this expanded use as opening an ever-widening door to abortion," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
Because of the FDA's action, more innocent children will perish; and more women and girls will suffer from trauma and grief. We need to tell women and men the truth about Mifeprex abortions.
For those considering one, we need to show them the infinitely better way of caring for both mother and child. For those struggling with past chemical or surgical abortions, we should listen compassionately and let them know about the Church's post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel.
In these ways, we can help save lives and show God's mercy in action.
Deirdre A. McQuade is assistant director of Pro-Life Communications at the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.