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New Study Claims Webcam Abortions are Safer Than Chemical Abortions performed at abortion Clinic: Part One of Two

by | Sep 25, 2017

But closer look reveals there are significant problems with the reliability and completeness of the data

By Randall K. O=Bannon, Ph.D. NRL Director of Education & Research

Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D.

In their fervor to promote the cause, pro-abortion researchers/activists sometimes stretch even the bounds of their own credulity. This certainly appears to the case with the latest “study” from Daniel Grossman and Kate Grindlay of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“Safety of Medical Abortion Provided Through Telemedicine Compared With in Person” touts the supposed safety of web-cam chemical abortions, or as they refer to them, “medical abortions” by “telemedicine.”

What is a “Webcam Abortion?”

Chemical/medical abortion requires two powerful drugs. Mifepristone (or “RU-486”), typically given at the abortion facility, blocks progesterone, shutting down the system supplying nutrients to the child. The second drug, misoprostol, usually taken at home, induces severe cramping and bleeding in order to expel the baby’s tiny body.

Chemical abortions by “telemedicine” (webcam abortions) are done remotely. The woman visits a small lightly staffed storefront sized clinic and chats with the abortionist over a video link. If he looks at her record and is satisfied with her answers, he clicks a button and releases a drawer holding the pills at her location.

The abortionist never actually physically meets with the pregnant woman.

The study’s agenda is as transparent as it is weakly supported. Make the “scientific” case that it is not important for a woman who is undergoing a chemical abortion to see the abortionist in person.

The Study and Its “Findings”

The study is slotted to appear in a forthcoming issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology and can be accessed through a link found here.

The study purports to compare the number of “adverse events” (complications) from webcam chemical abortions with those chemical abortions initiated by an in-person visit (presumably with a physician)at the clinic, at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (PPH) facilities in Iowa. The time frame was July 1, 2008 (just after PPH started the webcam abortion program) until June 30, 2015.

In that seven year period, we are told, there were supposed to have been 8,765 webcam abortions and 10,405 Ain person@ abortions performed at PPH clinics in Iowa.

During that time, Grossman and Grindlay say that there were only 16 cases of any “major adverse event” or visits to the ER with treatment among the women having the webcam abortions, yielding a rate of just 0.18%. At the same time, complications were reported for 33 women who had the “in person” chemical abortions, for a rate of 0.31%, nearly double.

Given the data, the authors declare that “Adverse events are rare with medical abortion, and telemedicine provision is noninferior to in-person provision with regard to clinically significant adverse events.”

To be clear, by “noninferior,” they mean “not worse than.” But the data actually appears to argue that the webcam abortions are safer than those initiated in person at the clinic, that the presence of the doctor makes them more dangerous, a finding Grossman and Grindlay would apparently like to avoid saying plainly.

Uncounted Complications

We should note that researchers were not necessarily counting every complication, but selected ones for which they were looking, hospital admissions, surgery, blood transfusion, or death. Before criticizing the brevity of this list, it is worth noting that the authors thus grant that problems like these were foreseeable and indeed found evidence of all these except death in their limited sample — even if their methods are likely to have missed some instances.

What complications didn’t the researchers count?

If the chemical abortion failed or was incomplete, and the woman returned to a PPH clinic for a surgical abortion.

Situations like ectopic pregnancy were only counted if they required hospitalization, surgery, blood transfusion or other treatment in the ER.

It is unclear whether they counted ectopic pregnancies treated at Planned Parenthood or whether or how ER doctors would have known they were treating a chemical abortion patient when dealing with a rupture.

Hemorrhage and ectopic pregnancy are serious risks, but they are not the only ones associated with mifepristone. Several women in the U.S. and elsewhere have died from infections it is believed that they contracted in the process of their chemical abortions. This is not something the authors mention or give any special indication that this was something for which they were looking. It would presumably show up in an ER visit, but only if women specifically told the doctor it was associated with their attempted abortion (more on this momentarily)

That their study did in fact turn up a number of serious “adverse events” is significant, it shows that the risks associated with chemical abortion are real. And that they minimize the significance of the ones they find is also telling.

But examined more closely, there are clearly significant problems with the reliability and completeness of this data, making any claims about the proven safety of webcam abortions or chemical abortions unwarranted.

Editor’s note. In Part Two, Dr. O’Bannon further examines how the sources of information, the missing data, the unshared information, and the fact that entire years are not reported undermine any notion that the study “proves” webcam abortions are safer than chemical abortions performed at abortion clinics in the presence of an abortionist.

Categories: Abortion