11 March 2009
Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ
Medical abortions are safe
Offering women early medical abortions at Family Planning clinics will make abortions safer for New Zealand women, Dr.
Margaret Sparrow, the National President of Alranz, said today.
Dr. Sparrow was responding to opponents of abortion citing serious complications and deaths from medical abortion.
“While morbidity and mortality must be a concern it is important to keep this in perspective as all medications have
side effects, even aspirin which is available over the counter.”
In 2005 the World Health Organisation put both mifepristone (Mifegyne or RU486) and misoprostol (Cytotec), the two drugs
that are used in New Zealand for medical abortion, on their list of essential medicines selected for their relevance to
public health outcomes especially in developing countries. This list is compiled after careful consideration of the
risks versus benefits.
There have been no deaths from early medical abortion using mifepristone and misoprostol in Europe or Australasia. Seven
deaths from toxic shock syndrome have been reported from the USA and one from Canada using this method. Considering the
more than 800,000 women who have used this method in the USA, the mortality rate is estimated at 0.8 per 100,000. The
rate for spontaneous abortion is estimated at 0.7 per 100,000 and the difference is not significant.
In the same time period there were nine cases of toxic shock after delivery of a live born infant and three reported
deaths following second trimester spontaneous miscarriage. The common factor to these deaths is pregnancy, not abortion.
An interesting comparison is that five men die from Viagra-related drug reactions out of every 100,000 prescriptions but
there is no organised movement to ban this drug.
“The risks of any medication must be carefully considered but they must be kept in perspective” said Dr Sparrow. “It is
important to remember that in our past most abortion deaths in New Zealand were from unsafe, illegal septic abortions.
We never want to see this happen again.”
For more on medical abortion, visit: www.alranz.org/ALRANZpamphletmedicalabortion.htm