Abortion rights advocates have long expressed their outrage over women’s deaths due to illegal back-alley abortions.

So where are feminist outcries of shock and dismay over fatalities related to use of RU-486, the “safe” and legal abortion pills?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently reported that one more women died after taking these pills to end pregnancies (initially, they reported two such deaths, then cleared the drug in one of them). That brings the RU-486 U.S. fatality total up to six since FDA approval of the abortion pills in September of 2000.

“To put this [six RU-486 deaths] in context … 560,000 medication abortions have occurred in the U.S.,” wrote Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Vice President of Medical Affairs Vanessa Cullins in an open letter to Planned Parenthood clients.

Dr. Cullins ought to try telling that one to the families of the deceased.

Monty and Helen Patterson put one of the fatalities in the context a lost child. The Pattersons lost their 18-year-old daughter one week after she swallowed her first dose of abortion pills at the Hayward, Calif., Planned Parenthood clinic in September of 2003. Holly’s parents learned the secret of her pregnancy and abortion on the day of her death. Their daughter was 17 when she was impregnated by her 24-year-old boyfriend. This man and Planned Parenthood guided Holly through the two-step, pill-popping RU-486 experience that brought on infection and sepsis, leading to her death. The coroner said Holly died of “septic shock due to endomyometritis [inflammation of the uterus] due to therapeutic, drug-induced abortion,” reported The Washington Post.

Another RU-486 fatality came in the context of a dead wife, Hoa Thuy Tran, for Charlie Nguyen, and a dead mother for their 5-year-old daughter Destiny. Tran, who was a teaching student, began taking her abortion medicine at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Costa Mesa, Calif. There, she swallowed the pills that deprive developing unborn babies of nutrients which keep them alive. Tran took her second dose of RU-486 (misoprostol, which causes contractions that force the emaciated embryo to be delivered) at home a day or two later as instructed by the clinic’s staff. Thereafter, Tran went with friends to Las Vegas, where she collapsed and died. It was six days after her visit to Planned Parenthood in December of 2003. An autopsy found “evidence indicative of infection and sepsis,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Tran’s family has since filed lawsuits against Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino counties, the Population Council, the abortion advocacy group that holds the patent rights to the drug, and Danco Laboratories LLC, which distributes RU-486.

Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives have put RU-486 in the context of H.R. 1079 or “Holly’s Law,” a bill named after Holly Patterson. This proposed legislation would force the FDA to pull RU-486 off the market.

It’s about time.

Abortion rights advocates have long packaged the abortion pill as a quick, neat and tidy way to end an unwanted pregnancy. Yet taking RU-486 is a complicated process that involves several appointments with the abortion provider and ingestion of two or more drugs, including painkillers, over the course of several days.

Oftentimes — as in both Holly Patterson’s and Hoa Thuy Tran’s cases — the second dose of abortion pills is self-administered at home where a woman might see the lifeless tiny body that marks the end of her pregnancy. Even if such a sight does not bother her, a woman who chooses medicated abortion must physically endure pain, possible intense cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, along with heavy and unrelenting bleeding.

Because doctors and clinicians anticipate these side effects of RU-486, they sometimes miss or misdiagnose maternal-life threatening conditions like deadly reproductive system infections or ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and women die.

Even if RU-486 does not kill a woman, it can be detrimental to her health.

From September 2000 through July 2005, the FDA received close to 900 “Adverse Event Reports” detailing serious RU-486-related complications from doctors, women who chose abortion pills to end pregnancies, and Danco Laboratories LLC.

A study of 600 of these reports, published in the February 2006 edition of The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, found a number of health hazards in the choice of RU-486.

Obstetrician/gynecologists Margaret Gary and Donna Harrison discovered that the most common RU-486 complications were hemorrhage, infection and ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Other problems included: heart attack, pulmonary embolism, pancreatitis, allergic reactions and pregnancies that were not “successfully” aborted.

If abortion rights advocates really care about “reproductive health” as they claim, they will support “Holly’s Law” and stop playing RU-486 roulette with women’s lives.

Marybeth T. Hagan is the author of Abortion:

A Mother’s Plea for Maternity and

the Unborn (Liguori/Triumph publication).