Study Confirms Women’s Testimonies About Abortion Pill’s Link to Depression, Anxiety

The first-of-its-kind animal research of chemical abortion pill RU-486 points to ‘clear distress’ in aborted animals, but not those who miscarry.

(photo: Shutterstock)

Abortion advocates — including international health agencies — have promoted the chemical abortion drug combination known as RU-486 to millions of women worldwide without clinical research of the drugs’ effects in animals beforehand.

Now, a first-of-its kind study has found that RU-486’s cocktail of chemicals produces “significant negative biological and behavioral changes” in rats, including signs of anxiety and depression, which are distinct from behaviors resulting from a rodent’s natural miscarriage of its offspring.

The research parallels recent court testimonies by women who have undergone chemical abortions and describe enduring harrowing mental ordeals after ingesting the drugs.

The study sheds light in one of the darker corners of science: the physical and psychological effects of abortion in general and chemical abortion in particular. The study, long overdue, according to the pro-life movement, also shows how the politics of abortion have become deeply entrenched in the supposedly “objective” scientific community.

Researchers from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and the School of Medicine at San Sebastian University in Chile believe theirs is the first published study to expose an animal model to the abortion-inducing drug combo of mifepristone and misoprostol, measure biological and biochemical changes in the animals, and monitor their behavior afterward.

Their study, published recently in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, divided 81 rats into four groups: pregnant rats who received RU-486, non-pregnant rats who received the drugs, pregnant rats who got the control solution without the abortifacient drugs, and non-pregnant rats who got the control solution.

Only rats whose pregnancies were terminated with RU-486 showed significant decrease in body weight and food intake and sharply reduced activity: well-recognized markers of depression and anxiety, according to the study.

“The most important findings of this research are the clear distress that was observed, along with the anxiety and depression-like behavior only in the rats that underwent the abortion using the mifepristone and misoprostol,” Stephen Sammut, professor of psychology at Franciscan University and co-author of the study, told the Register.

Additionally, such biological and biochemical measures suggested that chemical abortion deprived the animals of beneficial health effects that naturally occur when a pregnancy is carried to full term. The study also noted that detrimental effects of drug-induced abortion were of a different nature than those from natural miscarriage.

“Given the role of animal studies in giving us insight into how our own brain and body work, these findings appear to indicate that this type of abortion could potentially be resulting in similar effects in humans,” said Sammut.


‘Kill and Expel’

The Food and Drug Administration has approved chemical abortions for up to 10 weeks gestation. So-called RU-486 abortions involve two drugs: mifepristone, which kills the fetus by interfering with the mother’s hormones, and misoprostol, which induces strong uterine contractions which cause the woman to expel either her intact developing baby or parts of the baby at a time. The latter drug may cause very heavy bleeding, severe cramping, nausea, vomiting and dizziness that is described to patients as similar to an early miscarriage but is recounted by some women who have undergone the procedure as much worse.

After the procedure, which takes a few days, a doctor is supposed to confirm that no parts of the baby remain in the woman’s uterus and to see that she has not developed severe complications, including infection, hemorrhaging and incomplete abortion, which requires a follow-up curettage surgical abortion. According to recent research, these complications occur four times more frequently than with surgical abortion.

And Australian researchers found that while one in 3,000 women undergoing early surgical abortion lost more than a litre of blood, that figure rose to one in 200 for RU-486 abortion. Hospital admission for infection was one in 1,500 for early surgical abortion compared to one in 480 for medical drug-induced abortion.


Mental-Health Effects

For decades, studies have linked abortion to an increased risk of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, substance abuse and suicide — all evidence denied by champions of abortion, who claim women who abort are just simply more likely to have been mentally ill before their abortion.

But this debate about the root cause of such behaviors led Sammut to launch the study. With a background in behavioral neuroscience using animal models of various human psychiatric disorders, Sammut was uniquely qualified to undertake the study, which he saw as vital, since about 20% of pregnancies in the United States end in abortion.

“Given the conflicting arguments relating to depression following abortion at the human level, I was baffled by the absence of the basic information at the preclinical level in animals,” Sammut said.

This study of chemical abortions — of which there are about 200,000 per year in the U.S. — confirms the mental-health risks found with other forms of abortion.

Remarkably, abortion-rights advocates have been practically silent about calling for tests that can determine the psychological risks that the hormone-disrupting drugs in RU-486 might pose to women.

The World Health Organization, which added the RU-486 drugs to its list of “essential medicines” to have on hand globally in 2005, did not answer the Register’s questions about the study in Frontiers. Nor did the largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or the National Abortion Rights Action League, which has campaigned for drug abortions with minimal medical oversight.

On the Planned Parenthood website, the largest for-profit abortion provider in the country does acknowledge certain short-term and long-term risks involved in the use of RU-486, including blood clots, bleeding and infection, and that “the pregnancy doesn’t end.”

Yet such tame warnings by Planned Parenthood fly in the face of scientific data, which indicates that RU-486 is anything but “safe” — in either the short- or long-term interests of women.

Anxiety and depression — and the tandem use of antidepressants — has exploded in recent decades, particularly among women, who are twice as likely to be affected by mood disorders as men. According to 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, the number of Americans who say they’ve taken an antidepressant sometime within the past month rose by 65% between 1999 and 2014. One in five non-Hispanic white American women (21.4%) over the age of 12 had taken antidepressant medication during the previous month, and more than a quarter of them (27.2%) had been taking antidepressants for more than 10 years.

The rise in depression that this data reflects has been attributed to numerous causes — from grief to “certain medications” — yet the CDC and mental-health agencies that have responded to the CDC data appear not to have included the drug-induced post-abortive-depression phenomena among a list of causes for this precipitous rise in depression cases.

“We need to have a much better understanding of what is happening to the pregnant mother receiving these drugs to terminate a viable pregnancy,” Sammut said.


‘I Lost a Part of My Soul’

But the effects of chemical abortion are not simply being detected in the laboratory. For years after her chemical abortion, “Leslie W.” suffered “severe psychological trauma, such as panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, all attributable to her chemical abortion,” according to a document filed this spring in an Indiana court case against the abortion facility Whole Woman’s Health Alliance.

Leslie is one of five women, whose identifies are protected, offering testimony after undergoing chemical abortions with drugs given to them at the abortion business. Their stories raise questions not just about the drug’s effects on the woman’s body but also the resulting psychological trauma a woman experiences from both the physical and moral effects of ending a life in the womb.

“Chemical abortion is an abortion. And it is an incredibly terrifying, isolating, painful experience,” Leslie is quoted as saying in the court document. “It should not be downplayed as similar to a heavy period or an early miscarriage. I’ve had both heavy periods and an early miscarriage, and the pain of the chemical abortion was a violent, unnatural pain. The fear, worry and confusion of what was happening during my chemical abortion made me scared that I was going to die.”

Another woman, “Tami M.,” described her first chemical abortion at age 25, which she thought would be easier than her two previous surgical abortions, but she was horrified when she expelled her baby.

“I looked down and screamed,” she said. “It was not just a blob of tissue. I had given birth to what looked like a fully formed, intact 14-week-old fetus covered in blood.”

The court document says she “endured eight years of alcoholism, divorce, suicidal thoughts, rage-filled outbursts and debilitating depression.”

Another woman, “Elizabeth G.,” said, “There was so much pain and blood I thought I might die” before she passed a gestational sac about the size of a tennis ball in which she could see her baby. “I sat and held him and cried.”

She later suffered from anorexia, abusive relationships and post-traumatic stress disorder, which a counselor traced directly to her abortion, according to the document.

“I feel like I lost a part of my soul with that baby,” another woman, “Christen C.,” said.

“The [RU-486] pill is so easy it doesn’t give the mother time to truly reflect on what her actions will be doing and the lifelong consequences it can cause,” she testified to the court. “To me, it seems a very easy way for the business to make a quick buck by feeding on the fear of the scared and naive mother, who will be the one that is forced to live with the consequences, while the business profits and moves on to the next mother.”

Celeste McGovern writes from Nova Scotia, Canada.