With conventional abortion pill regimens likely to be pulled, anti-choice activists are increasingly attacking a safe alternative
Without mifepristone on the market, US clinics are expected to offer misoprostol-only abortions, which are safe and effective
Access to the abortion pill mifepristone appears likely to be revoked in an upcoming court decision, so anti-choice activists are increasingly spreading misinformation about misoprostol, the other medicine in the traditional two-drug protocol for abortions, which can be used alone as a safe and effective alternative.
Abortion medication, which typically consists of taking mifepristone first, followed by misoprostol, is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the U.S. Clinic closures across the country prompted by abortion restrictions following the fall of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 made abortion by mifepristone and misoprostol an especially important safety net. However, mifepristone could soon be pulled from U.S. markets, as a conservative, anti-abortion federal judge in Texas is expected to rule soon on a case challenging the drug’s 2000 Food and Drug Administration approval.
If mifepristone ceases to be widely available, clinics are expected to prescribe misoprostol-only protocols for medication abortions, a common regimen in other countries. Though misoprostol-only abortions do have a slightly higher failure rate and a higher incidence of side effects compared to mifepristone and misoprostol taken together, the World Health Organization and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have identified abortions via misoprostol as a safe and effective alternative when mifepristone is unavailable. Misoprostol is currently approved by the FDA to treat ulcers, meaning that doctors who prescribe the medication for abortions do so “off-label,” which is allowed “as long as it is within the standard of care.”
Knowing that misoprostol will become increasingly important if mifepristone access is revoked, anti-abortion activists have begun prioritizing falsely painting misoprostol as dangerous. In doing so, abortion opponents continue to move goal posts from overturning Roe to scandalizing medication abortion to aspiring to remove all abortion access through extreme and sometimes undemocratic means.
Here’s how anti-abortion media are demonizing misoprostol-only abortions more and more as they become an increasingly important pillar of abortion access nationwide:
- An opinion piece for the Washington Examiner inanely fearmongered that “babies could be expelled from the womb alive” during a misoprostol abortion, adding: “The trauma of watching a dead baby — your own child — floating in a toilet is immediate. How much worse will that trauma be when the baby, too young to survive but very much alive, dies before his mother’s eyes?” The piece said the fact that clinics are preparing to use misoprostol alone for abortions was “the clearest indication” that “abortion profiteers are more interested in selling abortion than they are in safeguarding women.” It went on to quote an anti-abortion doctor who falsely suggested that misoprostol is “very likely to cause injury to women.”
- Anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson appeared on One America News Network’s Tipping Point with Kara McKinney, where she disavowed misoprostol-only abortion as “far more dangerous.” Johnson further argued against one-pill abortion regimens, claiming that patients who use them aren’t able to choose “abortion pill reversal,” a supposed treatment based on unfounded claims that a medication abortion can be “reversed” with the use of progesterone. She also cautioned that “not all wins are actually victories, and I think that’s the case in this situation.”
- Live Action published a piece criticizing Ms. magazine for promoting misoprostol abortion as a safe alternative to typical abortion medication regimens, which Live Action referred to as abortion advocates’ “weapon against preborn humans.” The piece accused Ms. and “major players in the abortion industry” of “desperately clinging to the status quo” of accessible and legal abortion medication, which the piece referred to as “chemical abortion” to intimidate readers.
- Another article from Live Action mischaracterized misoprostol as “failure-prone” and overemphasized “the risk to women” potentially posed by the abortion medication. Further, the same piece vaguely criticized “the abortion industry” for allegedly being “seldom concerned with women’s safety and instead … focused on profits.”
- The political arm of Students for Life of America responded to a prominent public health researcher promoting an academic article providing sample protocols for misoprostol abortion, writing, “This is DANGEROUS!”
- Students for Life Action also linked to an article on its website that warned about “an insurgence of abortion vendors promoting the sale of the one-pill method” and characterized misoprostol abortions as “much more lucrative” and “much more dangerous” than the two-pill regimen.
- The anti-abortion site LifeNews described misoprostol abortions as “dangerous” and decried reproductive health providers such as Planned Parenthood and Aid Access as “supposed ‘women’s health’ advocates” because of their plans to pivot to misoprostol in the case that mifepristone access is revoked.
- Pregnancy Help News framed the pivot by providers to misoprostol abortions as the latest “ploy by abortion promoters to exploit the increasing ease of access of the chemical abortion pill.” The piece also flippantly refers to misoprostol as “the abortion mode du jour as it provides the most profit with the least responsibility.”
- Anti-abortion doctor Ingrid Skop, a spokesperson for the misinformation-peddling Charlotte Lozier Institute, wrote an opinion piece in Live Action in which she attacked misoprostol as a “poor abortifacient and very likely to cause injury to women.” Skop also attacked The Atlantic, which she labeled as “pro-abortion media” for writing about misoprostol, adding that “recommendations by abortion advocates in the media demonstrate conclusively that their goal is not the safety and well-being of women, but merely the death of as many unborn humans as possible.”