The FDA's move drew pointed criticism from Catholic leaders and pro-life groups.
“Every life is sacred: the lives of mothers and the lives of the unborn. Not only does this decision further the tragic taking of unborn lives but it does little to care for the well-being of women in need," Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said in a statement.
"Far from the accompaniment that women in crisis pregnancies deserve, this decision would leave women alone in the midst of trauma, often without any medical attention or follow up care," Lori said.
“One of the essential tasks of governments is to safeguard the health and well-being of citizens," he continued. "As such, the FDA ought to act to protect the lives and health of mothers and children, rather than merely succumbing to the abortion industry’s pressure to loosen safety standards."
Lila Rose, the president of pro-life group Live Action, called Thursday’s decision “horrific,” while the March for Life predicted that it will “lead to more lives lost to abortion and will increase the number of mothers who suffer physical and psychological harm from chemical abortions.”
The Susan B. Anthony List also condemned the FDA’s decision, under the Biden administration.
“The Biden administration’s reckless move puts countless women and unborn children in danger,” SBA List State Policy Director Sue Liebel said. “Abortion activists’ longtime wish has been to turn every post office and pharmacy into an abortion center. They promote abortion drugs as easy, painless and private. Science says otherwise.”
In anticipation of the FDA’s decision, Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List, released a new study finding increased access to abortion pills a public health risk in November.
“The rate of abortion-related emergency room visits following a chemical abortion increased over 500% from 2002 through 2015, according to an analysis of Medicaid claims data,” the press release read. “Over the same period, chemical abortions within the study population increased from 4.4% to 34.1% of total abortions.”
The study also found that the rate of abortion-related emergency-room visits is increasing faster for chemical abortions than for surgical abortions and that chemical abortion makes subsequent abortions more dangerous.
Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins also warned about medical abortions during a virtual news conference on Thursday.
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“Today, we may very well be confronting a brand new frontier of abortion,” she said. “In essence, death by mail, delivered to your doorstep.”
What is a 'medical abortion'?
An obstetrician-gynecologist who once performed more than 1,200 abortions partnered with pro-life group Live Action in 2016 to describe various abortion procedures. In a video, Dr. Anthony Levatino named the “two steps” of a medical or chemical abortion that is administered up to 10 weeks in pregnancy.
First, “the woman takes pills which contain mifepristone,” or RU-486, he began. This blocks the hormone progesterone and causes the “lining of the mother’s uterus” to break down, “cutting off blood and nourishment to the baby.”
Twenty-four to 48 hours later, the woman takes misoprostol or Cytotec. Together, he continued, these drugs “cause severe cramping, contractions, and often heavy bleeding to force the dead baby out of the woman’s uterus.”
“The process can be very intense and painful,” he cautioned, “and the bleeding and contractions can last for a few hours to several days.” Frequently, he said, the woman will “sit on a toilet as she prepares to expel the child which she will then flush.”