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Teen dies after taking RU 486; NARAL head to push pro-choice vote

WASHINGTON (BP)–An 18-year-old California woman has died apparently from complications after taking the abortion drug RU 486.

Meanwhile, the head of a leading abortion rights organization has announced she will resign, partly in order to work for the election of a pro-choice president of the United States.

Holly 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 San Francisco Chronicle. She died of a severe infection caused by portions of the unborn baby that remained in her uterus, Holly’s father, Monty Patterson, said he was told by a physician who treated her at a local hospital, the Chronicle reported. The coroner has yet to rule on the official cause of death, according to the newspaper.

Holly Patterson received the abortion drug from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hayward, Calif., the Chronicle reported. Planned Parenthood is the leading abortion clinic chain in the country.

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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2000. They have called for the FDA to review its approval process for RU 486 since then.

In the wake of his daughter’s death, Monty Patterson joined critics in questioning the administration of the abortion method.

“The medical community treats this as a simple pill you take, as if you’re getting rid of a headache,” Patterson told the Chronicle. “The procedure, the follow-ups, it’s all too lackadaisical. The girl gets a pill. Then she’s sent home to do the rest on her own. There are just too many things that can go wrong.

“I don’t want to see another young, vibrant girl die,” said Patterson, who learned of his daughter’s abortion only as she neared death, according to the newspaper. “Holly and her boyfriend made this decision on their own, and it was a fatal one. I feel so sad, so numb. Parents need to talk to their children, and children need to talk to their parents. I don’t want to say I’m mad; I just think things should be different. We should not have lost Holly, and we did.”

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, who usually suffocates or starves to death. RU 486 normally is used in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. A second drug, a prostaglandin, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the child. 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.

Patterson’s death renewed calls for the FDA to revoke its approval of RU 486.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents of this unfortunate girl,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Sadly, it was only a matter of time before this dangerous drug claimed the life of a young woman, even in as medically advanced of a country as the United States. There are some reports this may not have been the first American woman’s death from RU 486. It has already claimed the lives of a significant number of women and girls in Third World countries. Of course, every time the drug is administered a baby dies.

“Perhaps the most outrageous part of this tragic story is that evidently her parents were not even informed that she had an abortion until hours before she expired. The tragic story of this young woman is precisely why we fought the legalization of RU 486 and will continue to oppose its use.”

Concerned Women for America, as well as the Christian Medical Association and the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, filed a petition with the FDA in 2002 calling for immediate revocation of RU 486. The petition charged the FDA had violated federal law and its own standards in approving the drug.

“The FDA has the power to protect women from this dangerous drug,” CWA spokesperson Wendy Wright said in a written statement. “We grieve with the Patterson family over the loss of their daughter. Her parents — who wanted to be a part of her life and decisions — needlessly lost a daughter and grandchild, while Planned Parenthood pockets the fee and fights against parental consent laws.”

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. A 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.

Danco Laboratories, RU 486’s American manufacturer, has reported about 400 adverse effects among users of the pill to the FDA, according to the Chronicle. There have been only two previous deaths related to the drug in North America, and one of those was a Canadian woman, according to the newspaper. The Family Research Council reported, however, there have been at least six prior deaths on the continent.

The FDA has begun investigating Patterson’s death, the Chronicle reported.

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.

NARAL Pro-choice America, one of the abortion rights organizations that advocated legalization of RU 486, announced Sept. 22 its president, Kate Michelman, will resign next spring. Michelman will become NARAL’s president emeritus after April’s March for Freedom of Choice in Washington.

Michelman, who has three daughters and five grandchildren, said in a statement she would step down to meet “family responsibilities and devote myself actively to the most urgent priority facing the pro-choice movement — electing a president who will protect our right to choose.”

“The next four years will almost certainly see at least two Supreme Court vacancies,” Michelman said. “If George W. Bush is allowed to fill those seats, it will mean the end of reproductive privacy and the end of Roe v. Wade. I intend to do everything I can to see that does not happen.”

She has been NARAL’s president since 1985. NARAL formerly was known as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.