Last week, the Food and Drug Administration expanded abortion access in the United States by permanently allowing abortion medication to be distributed by mail. Right-wing media and anti-abortion outlets are taking advantage of the announcement, spreading misinformation that abortion pills are dangerous to further stigmatize the health procedure.
According to NPR, as many as 40% of abortions occur via abortion pills. And contrary to conservative allegations, the abortion medication mifepristone is safe and highly effective, with less than 0.4% of patients requiring hospitalization or blood transfusions later and more than 95% of use resulting in successfully terminated pregnancies. Additionally, deaths associated with abortion medication are extremely rare, with less than a .001% frequency.
The FDA’s decision makes permanent a temporary rule allowing doctors to prescribe mifepristone via telehealth appointments and send them by mail, making abortion care more accessible to individuals unable to visit clinics in person. With the conservative-majority Supreme Court hearing a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and Republican-led states enacting a record number of abortion restrictions and curbing access to abortion pills, federal protection of abortion medication marks a significant step in ensuring bodily autonomy and securing health care access.
Right-wing media have used this decision to undermine the safety of mifepristone and vilify abortion. These attacks fit into a broader pattern of right-wing media celebrating diminishing abortion rights and spreading abortion misinformation on a national stage.
- Carley Shimkus, Fox & Friends’ headline reporter, announced the new FDA decision with skepticism, echoing false claims that “severe risk of hemorrhaging and complications make unsupervised chemical abortions particularly dangerous.”
- Lila Rose, founder of the anti-choice group Live Action, appeared on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum to discuss the expansion of mifepristone access, accusing the FDA of “playing the politics here with the health of women and the lives of children.” She continued her rant to suggest that President Joe Biden was at the “beck and call of the abortion industry” for “making our postal service a carrier for deadly abortion pills."
- A Pregnancy Help News headline claimed that the FDA decision “eliminates safeguards against dangerous abortion drugs.” Throughout the article, the outlet fearmongered about potential abortion pill complications without noting that they are extremely rare.
- The Christian Broadcasting Network reported that wide availability of abortion medication will “likely also result in increased risks … including death” while failing to mention that the majority of medicated abortions are successful and occur without issue.
- The Federalist accused the Biden administration of “endors[ing] more baby killing” through the FDA’s expansion of abortion pill access. The outlet exaggerated the risks of abortion medication by quoting a representative of the think tank the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of the notorious anti-abortion organization the Susan B. Anthony List.
- Life News published an article accusing Biden of expanding abortion access “to kill more babies and injure more women.” The website also falsely claimed the move will “endanger” pregnant individuals by listing abortion pills’ “life-threatening complications” without acknowledging their extremely low probability.
Correction (12/22/21): This piece originally identified Lila Rose as the founder of anti-abortion outlet Life Site News. In fact, Rose is the founder of a different anti-choice group, Live Action.