Should the process be curtailed, or is it a safe and vital option for many women?
Chemical abortions induce the procedure chemically with pills, rather than surgically. Usually used between seven and nine weeks into pregnancy, the two-medication process first loosens the attachment between the fetus and the uterus, then induces uterus cramping to expel the pregnancy.
As a result, at least 39% of abortions were performed chemically in 2017, up from only 5.5% in 2001. In several states, more than half of abortions were performed chemically, including Mississippi, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma.
While courts have ruled that a state outright banning chemical abortion is unconstitutional, many states have recently placed restrictions or limits on the practice.
What the legislation does
The Support And Value Expectant (SAVE) Moms and Babies Act would institute three requirements with the goal of limiting chemical abortions:
- Banning the FDA of approving any new chemical abortion medicines, beyond those already approved.
- Require all abortion medicines to maintain their existing Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) labeling, listing potential safety concerns and adverse side effects.
- Mandate all abortion medicines be given in person, preventing dispensation by other means such as through the mail.
The House version was introduced on September 19 as bill number H.R. 4399, by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH5). The Senate version was introduced two months later on December 17 as bill number S. 3072, by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).
What supporters say
Supporters argue the measure protects women’s health, and argue that it should also be supported by ostensibly pro-choice advocates.
“While the national abortion rate decline is a welcome sign, the dramatic rise in use of the abortion pill should worry pro-life activists and pro-abortion activists alike,” Rep. Latta said in a press release. “We know from patient testimonies and FDA studies that there is nothing simple or easy about the chemical abortion pill.”
“Without proper medical oversight, it has resulted in hospitalizations, severe complications, and several deaths,” Rep. Latta continued. “Lawmakers and advocates pushing for this pill to be available on demand and over the counter are neglecting the safety and health of women across this country.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the process of chemical abortion is safe and sometimes medically necessary, for an action that has been legal under federal law for decades now. The Guttmacher Institute says only 0.4% of chemical abortions result in serious complications.
“With medication abortion, some people like that you don’t need to have a procedure in a doctor’s office. You can have your medication abortion at home or in another comfortable place that you choose,” Planned Parenthood’s website writes. “You get to decide who you want to be with during your abortion, or you can go it alone. Because medication abortion is similar to a miscarriage, many people feel like it’s more ‘natural’ and less invasive.”
“Unless there’s a rare and serious complication that’s not treated, there’s no risk to your future pregnancies or to your overall health,” Planned Parenthood also writes. “Having an abortion doesn’t increase your risk for breast cancer or affect your fertility. It doesn’t cause problems for future pregnancies like birth defects, premature birth or low birth weight, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or infant death.”
Odds of passage
The Senate version has attracted 12 Republican cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
The House version has attracted 115 bipartisan cosponsors: 114 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL3). It awaits a potential vote in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Democratic chamber.