Paul Tuns:

In 2021, Ms. Magazine and the New York Times published articles touting “missed period pills” – the chemical abortion cocktail of mifepristone and misoprostol, which goes by the name Mifegymiso in Canada. The two American news outlets promoted the efforts of the National Working Group on Missed Period Pills in the U.S., a coalition of 21 organizations and individuals that include the pro-abortion Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants, Carafem, Plan C, Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equality, and the National Women’s Health Network, plus researchers from universities including the University of Ottawa.

The website of the working group states that period pills are a “real thing” and have been used “for twenty years (in the U.S.) to provide safe, early medication abortion.” The abortion pill, then known as RU-486 was approved for use in the United States in 2000. That said, not all partners are on the same page in their promotion of the abortion pill as a period pill; the abortion chain Carafem refers to them as a “new medication option” on its website.

The coalition “was formed with the goal of making access to pills that will bring on menses a reality in the U.S.” as it seeks to bring down barriers to the abortion pill being marketed as a period pill. Plan C, an abortion pill provider, has a mobile billboard in Texas with a message that reads in both Spanish and English: “Missed period? There’s a pill for that.”

Gynuity Health Projects, an abortion research outfit, has been studying the marketing of abortion pills as missed period pill, and it describes how mifepristone acts as a so-called missed period pill: it “involve(s) use of uterine evacuation medications for treatment of delayed menses without prior pregnancy confirmation.” In layman’s terms, it will terminate a pregnancy and expel the embryonic human being which will eventually be followed by a regular period, and it would do so without the need for a test to confirm a woman is pregnant. 

Gynuity, which has received seven grants of at least $1 million USD from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct research on misoprostol or mifepristone in the developing world since 2009, states that “period pills bring on your period when it is late, even by just a few days.” While acknowledging that “if you are pregnant, these pills will end your very early pregnancy,” the focus on their marketing is to induce a late period, noting they are “sometimes … referred to as menstrual regulation, or pushing a period, or bringing down a period.” Gynuity’s Wendy Shelton told Rewire News that a benefit of the so-called period pills is that women “take control of their reproduction without being constrained by other people’s definition of pregnancy., abortion, or other terms that may not reflect their beliefs or lived experiences.” She called the creation of “psychological space for people to define what’s happening to their bodies on their own terms” “liberating.”

Carole Novielli of the pro-life group Live Action called the missed period spin as “an attempt to normalize abortion using deceptive euphemisms.” She said that the deceptive language about periods misleads women “to escape the knowledge of whether or not they killing their own preborn child.” She noted that the Working Group’s website “admits that the whole point of ‘missed period pills’ is to remain in ignorance.” The website states: “since pregnancy is not verified before taking the pills, a person will never know if they were or weren’t starting a pregnancy when they took the pills.” 

Novielli also stated that the abortion pill has not received permission from the Food and drug Administration to be sold as a period pill and that using it without confirmation of pregnancy “flouts important safety regulations put in place” by the FDA which requires prescribers of the abortion pill “to properly date a pregnancy.”

Andrew Kaake of the Equal Rights Institute said that the deception in the promotion of the pills raises important questions of informed consent on the part of women using them. “The use of euphemistic language … does not change the pill into anything other than an abortion pill,” he wrote, and any “attempt to use such marketing to fool women or induce them to fool themselves interferes with informed consent.”

Abortion pills have been widely used as menstrual regulation pills in Bangladesh and Cuba. World magazine reported in January that marketing abortion as a cure for a missed period is nothing new: in the 1830s, New York abortionist Madame Restell advertised abortion a “cure for stoppage of the menses” and in 1972, Time reported that abortion facilities in California and New York were doing “menstrual extraction” using vacuum aspiration abortions to “terminate suspected pregnancies before conception has been confirmed” but which were not listed as official abortions in medical records.