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RU 486 behind death of teenager, coroner reports

WASHINGTON (BP)–A coroner has confirmed a California teenager’s death resulted from complications caused by use of the abortion drug RU 486.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration says it is conducting an intense inquiry into the September death of Holly Patterson, 18. In addition, members of Congress are preparing legislation to suspend the FDA’s approval of RU 486.

Based on a preliminary autopsy, the Alameda County coroner’s office ruled Oct. 30 Patterson died of “septic shock … due to endomyometritis … due to therapeutic drug-induced abortion,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Endomyometritis is a womb infection, while septic shock is a collapse of blood pressure that often proves fatal, according to The Chronicle.

Patterson, a resident of the San Francisco area, died Sept. 17, one week after beginning the two-drug protocol to end her seven-week pregnancy, according to The Chronicle. At the time, Monty Patterson, Holly’s father, said he was told by a doctor who treated her at a local hospital she died of a severe infection caused by portions of the unborn baby that remained in her uterus, The Chronicle reported.

She received RU 486 from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hayward, Calif., The Chronicle reported. Planned Parenthood is the leading abortion clinic chain in the country.

The FDA is “aggressively investigating” Patterson’s death, an agency spokesman said, according to the Nov. 3 issue of The Washington Post.

Doctors are administering the abortion pill outside the protocol established by the FDA for the use of RU 486, The Post reported. Doctors are prescribing the two-step, two-drug regimen through nine weeks of pregnancy, even though the FDA approved RU 486 through only seven weeks, according to The Post. Doctors also are giving different dosages of the drugs, allowing women to take the second pill at home and permitting them to use the second drug vaginally rather than orally, all in contrast to the FDA’s approved regimen, the newspaper reported.

Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and some fellow members of the House of Representatives will seek to halt the use of RU 486 and review the FDA’s approval of the drug. DeMint plans to introduce the RU 486 Suspension and Review Act Nov. 6.

Since his daughter’s death, Monty Patterson has waged a campaign to warn others of the dangers of RU 486. “I don’t want to see another Holly Patterson walk into a clinic and risk dying,” he said, according to The Chronicle.

“I am not putting out a pro-choice or pro-life stand,” Patterson told the newspaper. “We need to know that drugs are safe, and if they are not safe, do something about it.”

Pro-life organizations, including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, fought introduction of RU 486 into this country for more than a decade before the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2000. They have called for the FDA to review its approval process for RU 486 since then.

“The tragic story of this young woman is precisely why we fought the legalization of RU 486 and will continue to oppose its use,” ERLC President Richard Land said after Patterson’s death.

RU 486, also known as mifepristone but which uses the trade name Mifeprex in this country, causes the lining of the uterus to release the tiny baby. RU 486 normally is used in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. A second drug, prostaglandin, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the embryo. When the FDA approved Mifeprex, it required the anti-ulcer drug misoprostol to be used to eject the preborn baby. Cytotec is the trademark name for the drug mandated for expelling the baby in the RU 486 process.

In October, Concerned Women for America, as well as the Christian Medical Association and the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, filed a brief calling for the FDA to withdraw RU 486 from sale until a safety review was conducted. Last year, the same groups filed a petition with the FDA urging immediate revocation of RU 486. The petition charged the FDA had violated federal law and its own standards in approving the drug.

In their petition, the pro-life groups reported the FDA posted on the Internet information on some adverse effects on women using the two-drug regimen. At least two women had been afflicted by ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and one of them had died. One woman died from a bacterial infection, and another had suffered a “serious systemic bacterial infection.” Also, a 21-year-old woman had a heart attack three days after completion of the regimen. Numerous injuries, including life-threatening ones to two 15-year-old girls, also had been reported to the FDA.

When the FDA approved RU 486, it followed a controversial effort that took nearly eight years. The first Bush administration had refused to allow importation of RU 486, which was known as the French abortion pill because of its development in France. On his second full day in office in January 1993, President Clinton initiated the process to drop the import ban on the drug.

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