Deregulating Mifepristone Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen

by Sophie Trist



On April 13, the Biden administration announced changes to the FDA regulations on mifepristone, also known as RU486, an abortion pill used in conjunction with misoprostol to kill preborn children in the first ten weeks of pregnancy. The FDA first approved mifepristone in 2000, but the agency’s current Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) requires that the drug be prescribed by a licensed provider, that women pick up the drug in person from a hospital or clinic, and that women receive adequate counseling on the risks of the drug. Given mifepristone’s deadly effects, these are common-sense regulations, but the Biden administration announced that it is lifting these restrictions and allowing mifepristone to be distributed by mail.


For now, these changes only extend until the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, deregulating RU486 has been a long-standing dream of the abortion industry. In 2017, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Hawaii to make abortion pills more widely available. A recent Atlantic article suggests deregulating mifepristone as a way for the Biden administration to permanently expand abortion access, circumventing the courts and the people’s duly elected legislators. The abortion industry is clearly making the most of this public health emergency to pave the way for pushing deadly abortion pills into local pharmacies and mailboxes. Mifepristone is used in about 39% of abortions in the United States, an increase of 25% since 2014. Deregulation of mifepristone may cause the biggest spike in abortions since Roe v. Wade, and it will be a disaster for pregnant people and preborn children.


Though relatively few pregnant people seem to die from mifepristone use, its greatest danger lies in its potential as a tool for abusers and human traffickers. In 2018, senior Trump aide Jason Miller was credibly accused of giving his pregnant mistress a smoothie which contained RU486. The woman lost her baby and nearly lost her life. That same year, a Wisconsin man named Jeffrey Smith tried to coerce his girlfriend into aborting their baby, and when that failed, he ordered mifepristone and misoprostol online and slipped one of them into her water bottle. Fortunately, the woman noticed the pills crushed in the water, and she and her baby were spared.


In May of 2017, Dr. Sikander Imran of Arlington, Virginia, was arrested for slipping an abortion pill into his girlfriend's tea, killing their seventeen-week-old child. Imran was sentenced to twenty years in prison for fetal homicide, but he will only serve three. In 2013, John Welden pleaded guilty to fetal homicide after tricking his girlfriend Remee Lee into taking an abortion pill. “Every day is a nightmare for me ever since this began,” Ms. Lee told CNN.


If mifepristone is widely available at local pharmacies or through the mail, abusers and traffickers can gain easy access, and without medical oversight and counseling, there will be no way of knowing whether a pregnant person is truly seeking abortion or is being coerced, manipulated, or outright deceived.


Any drug which ends a human life should never be treated lightly. We see this in the strict protocols surrounding drugs used for executions and assisted suicide. Imagine being able to walk into a drugstore and order a lethal drug over the counter, or to obtain lethal drugs anonymously via the Internet. Lifting the FDA restrictions on mifepristone during the Covid-19 pandemic sets a very dangerous precedent. If mail-order abortion becomes the norm, there’s no way of predicting how many preborn children will die. Pregnant people will face an increased risk of forced abortions from abusive partners with easy access to these drugs. In short, deregulating RU486 is a nightmare, and countless pregnant people and their children will suffer untold physical and psychological trauma because of it.


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