On Saturday, Utah added itself to the list of Republican-controlled states that have no damn business passing laws that have to do with women's reproductive health. Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law that requires abortion doctors to tell women the fairy tale that they can stop their medication-induced abortion by not taking the second pill that is given. According to proponents of the the bill, who we imagined obtained their medical degrees at the University of Google, this will actually work. But not only is their assertion almost certainly wrong, it is incredibly dangerous.
When a woman opts for a medication-induced abortion she is given two pills. The first is the actual "abortion pill" called Mifepristone. The pill blocks the production of the "pregnancy hormone" progesterone. Without this hormone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy is no longer viable. This can happen in a few hours or a few days. Mifepristone is given to the patient at the clinic.
According to Planned Parenthood, within three days the woman will take a second medication--the one Republicans recommend she not take--called Misoprostol. The only thing this drug does is cause the uterus to rid itself of the tissue that resulted from the pregnancy. In other words, by the time she gets to this step the pregnancy can no longer continue in almost every case. In fact, less than 1% of women experience an ongoing pregnancy after taking the abortion pill and if it does fail to work, there can be consequences to the fetus:
If the medical abortion treatment failed, there is a slight increase in the risk of birth defects such as deformities of the hands or feet and problems with the nerves of the fetus. To treat an ongoing pregnancy you must repeat a medical or surgical abortion.
The idea that a woman could fail to take the second pill and carry the fetus to term, even with a shot of progesterone, is a little bit like hoping the GOP will help provide for the baby if it's born: possibly but incredibly unlikely. However, a very real consequence of the refusal to take the second pill is deadly.
Let's say a woman takes the Mifepristone and decides not to take the Misoprostol; she is now putting her life at risk. Maybe she lives in a remote area and does not have access to a physician like many women across the country. Maybe she simply doesn't understand the consequences because her doctor has been forced to lie to her. Regardless of the reason, the tissue in her uterus is not expelling itself and begins to turn toxic. She can develop a complication known as septic shock which quickly develops into sepsis. Sepsis occurs when the bacterial infection enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body. It is deadly:
In abortions, two main factors can contribute to the onset of sepsis and ultimately, septic shock. They are:
- an incomplete abortion: pieces of the pregnancy tissue remain in the body after a spontaneous or induced abortion, both medical and surgical
- bacterial infection in the uterus during a surgical or self-induced abortion
According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, it has been estimated that between 28 and 50 percent of the people who develop sepsis die.
So then, what is the point of this law? Medical professionals do not support it and neither does science nor common sense but Governor Herbert signed it anyway. Well, the answer to that could be very dark: What if the people who fought to pass this law actually want some women to die from a completely preventable infection? If you think this is insane, you don't understand the cruelty of the religious right.
Consider, for instance, the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. The virus infects over half the American population and causes nearly five thousand women to die each year from cervical cancer; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that more than two hundred thousand die worldwide. We now have a vaccine for HPV that appears to be both safe and effective. The vaccine produced 100 percent immunity in the six thousand women who received it as part of a clinical trial. And yet, Christian conservatives in our government have resisted a vaccination program on the grounds that HPV is a valuable impediment to premarital sex. These pious men and women want to preserve cervical cancer as an incentive toward abstinence, even if it sacrifices the lives of thousands of women each year.
Think about it, the "pro-life" right really, really wants to eliminate the access women have to safe abortions. They literally have no concern for the lives they put at risk and some are even twisted enough to see it as divine or moral comeuppance. Imagine a bunch of women start to drop dead after taking the abortion pill, it's the perfect way to "prove" the pill isn't safe and ban it. That would force women to either have a much more traumatic surgical abortion (if it's even available in their state) or carry the fetus to full-term.
Basically, it allows the GOP to punish women while maintaining the premise that they are just trying to "protect" them. It's the perfect plan for a group of people who hate women even more than they hate science.