The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Abortion Pill Plus Criminalization Equals Danger

Jul 18, 2022

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, abortion is now banned in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Almost half of U.S. states are expected to allow either abortion bans or severe limits on abortion to take effect in the near future.

Taking pills to end a pregnancy is expected to increase because of these abortion bans. Called “Medical Abortion", “Medication Abortion” or “Self-Managed Abortion,” an estimated fifty-four percent of abortions happened using this method in 2020 according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The medication can be taken at home and does not involve a medical procedure. It has been argued that abortion pills could prevent women from going back to the era of coat hangers in this post-Roe world. In fact, medication abortion is definitely not a safe substitute for legal abortion, for many reasons.

First, medication abortions are documented in multiple studies to have four times the complication rates of medical procedures. In about 5% of cases, there are serious complications. So, taking the abortion pills is not without risk.

In addition, risk is amplified in cases where the abortion pill is taken in a state with an abortion ban. The details of how these pills work points out why a trip to the emergency room might become necessary.

Taking pills to end a pregnancy involves a two drug combination, taken one or two days apart. One is mifepristone, a synthetic steroid that blocks the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is necessary for a pregnancy to continue. The other is misoprostol, a medication that causes intense cramping in the uterus and bleeding that builds in intensity and then tapers off.

According to the FDA, these medications are not safe for women with an IUD, a history of bleeding problems or with an ectopic pregnancy.

If there is heavier than expected bleeding or the abortion is unsuccessful, the patient needs medical care. Women in states where abortion is illegal will risk facing criminal charges if they seek medical care after complications of a medication abortion.

Roughly one million abortions happen each year in the U.S. At a 5% complication rate, that translates to potentially 50,000 women facing complications and needing to go to the emergency room.

A just-released study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at medical care for miscarriages since the passing of the “Texas 6 Week/Heart Beat” abortion ban in September of 2021. Since the medical symptoms for miscarriages and failed abortion attempts can be the same, this study is an important comparison.

The study found women in Texas in the middle of miscarriages are being denied treatment for sepsis—an infection of the bloodstream that can kill. The reason? The heartbeat of the detached and dying fetus has not yet stopped, so care for the woman is delayed!

The lead author of the study said, "What we have seen in Texas could very well be a preview of what we will see elsewhere…. Abortion bans create a climate of fear for providers."

Dr. Lorie Harper, chief of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas at Austin, explained to a reporter that doctors are waiting until pregnant mothers are in "heart failure, waiting until hemorrhaging, waiting until a patient needs to be intubated, or is [having organ failure.] … Not every patient who becomes that critically ill will recover."

The chipping away at access to abortion that started soon after the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was horrendous, but with Roe in place, abortion-related deaths dropped dramatically compared to pre-Roe days.

The overturning of Roe will again lead to the preventable deaths of women—especially working class and poor women. The very mobilization that is needed to turn this horrendous situation around could be the spark that lights the flame of revolt in a U.S. working class that is majority female.