Pro-abortionists’ quest for their Holy Grail of a “safe and easy” abortion method has suffered a hard blow with the news that a Canadian woman has died during a second clinical trial of the so-called abortion pill, RU-486.

The unidentified woman, whose place of residence and death is also not known, began medicinal treatments for an abortion on August 23. She was given a dose of the drug mifepristone, then, two days later, misoprostol. She began experiencing bleeding and cramps on August 28, and continued to deteriorate until dying in hospital on Sept. 1.

Head of the clinical trial, Vancouver doctor Ellen Wiebe, was quick to apply damage control, suggesting that the abortion medications were not responsible for the death. Instead, the woman had “an exceedingly rare” clostridium infection of the uterus, resulting in septic shock, claimed Wiebe.

“The drugs caused the abortion and the infection is related to the abortion, but the drugs did not cause the infection,” she added. “I’m confident (an) investigation will clear the drugs. The drugs are safe.”

Even if the drugs are safe in the researchers’ eyes, however, questions have arisen over whether women taking part in the trial were adequately informed of risks and dangers before they signed up. It is also not known whether the women knew that Searle Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of misoprostol, warned in August 2000 that the drug should not be used to induce labour or abortion. Misoprostol, said Searle, is normally used to treat ulcers, and can cause uterine rupture, severe vaginal bleeding, shock and “fetal or maternal death” if used otherwise.

Observers suggested at the time that Searle released the statement to protect itself from legal liabilities should use of misoprostol result in death or injury. As if on cue, that bird appears to have now come home to roost.

Former abortionist-turned-fetologist Dr. Bernard Nathanson has noted that RU-486 in itself is not potentially dangerous to women, but misoprostol is, and they have to be taken together. He explained that the drug has the potential to cause asthma, or a worsening of asthma, and also excessive bleeding.

The drug can cause excessive bleeding, said Nathanson, because at the early stages of a pregnancy, the drug, which expels a dead baby from the womb, often isn’t completely successful on its own. The pregnancy tends to detach itself partially but not enough to be expelled, causing the bleeding. “Many … women bleed for hours at home, having terrible cramps, and end up in emergency rooms,” he said.

Pro-life advocates are suggesting that if the woman who died was not adequately informed of these facts, her family may have substantial ground for a lawsuit against the B.C. government, which funded the trial. However, on the flip side, the family may wish to maintain its privacy and forego the exposure of a public legal action.

An obstacle to obtaining more information in the case is the pall of secrecy that has surrounded the abortion-pill trials. Although ostensibly for security and privacy purposes, the hushed-up nature of the experiments has made it difficult to ascertain definite information in any area. There has been speculation that complications from the abortion pill are much worse than has been made known, but there is no way of objectively and independently verifying this.

What is known is that supporters of the abortion pill have in the past attempted to hide complications from its use. Even in the current situation, pro-abortion groups such as the New York-based Population Council are controlling the flow of information and generally are releasing very little, if any.

Wiebe received a Health Canada go-ahead to begin the abortion pill trial in April 2000 after aggressive lobbying by Canada’s pro-abortion faction. The latest trial – which is reported to involve some 900 women in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Sherbrooke, Que. – has been suspended for the time being.

John Hof, of Campaign Life Coalition B.C., questioned who will be held accountable for the woman’s death. He also observed that the abortion pill has been designed to do one thing only – kill children.

“Ellen Wiebe attempted to paint medical abortion as something that is as easy as popping Ex-Lax, but the evidence points otherwise,” added Ted Gerk of the Kelowna, B.C.-based Pro-Life Resource Centre.

“In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration was so concerned, it put very tight restrictions on use of the drug. The fact is, the drug is not the easy solution Wiebe attempted to portray it as.”

Gerk said the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons should launch an immediate investigation into the adequacy of informed consent. “Were women told of the possible risks and side effects associated with the drug, and its companion?” he asked.