Questions Raised About Safety of Abortion Method In the last couple of years, four women in California have died after undergoing abortions with a two-pill regimen that had, until recently, an unblemished safety record.
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Questions Raised About Safety of Abortion Method

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Questions Raised About Safety of Abortion Method

Questions Raised About Safety of Abortion Method

Questions Raised About Safety of Abortion Method

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In the last couple of years, four women in California have died after undergoing abortions with a two-pill regimen that had, until recently, an unblemished safety record.

JOHN YDSTIE, Host:

NPR's Joanne Silberner reports.

JOANNE SILBERNER: Dr. PAUL SELIGMAN (Office of Pharmacoepidemiology and Statistical Science, Food and Drug Administration) But this combination of drugs is used around the world, in many more patients than in the United States. Why, then, are these are the cases only here? And why now, and only in the western United States?

SILBERNER: Marc Fischer is with the Unexplained Deaths Project, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His job is to figure out what kills people. All he can say in these cases was what didn't.

MARC FISCHER: There were no epidemiologic links identified between the patients. Each woman had received their medications from a different clinic and healthcare provider, and the medications received were from different manufacturing lots.

SILBERNER: Sandra Kweder of the FDA says there are a number of reasons why the mystery is going to be difficult to solve.

SANDRA KWEDER: I would say that one of the things that makes it very difficult is that the cases are very rare.

SILBERNER: There have been four well-documented cases and more than 500,000 instances of American women taking mifepristone, or RU486. Several more are under investigation. All told, not enough to see a pattern. Another difficulty...

KWEDER: It's always difficult to investigate cases surrounding pregnancy or the peripartum period, a lot because of confidentiality concerns, and particularly when you get into areas of having to delve into the area of abortions. There are a lot of sensitivities around that, and so obtaining information can be a challenge.

SILBERNER: Joanne Silberner, NPR News, Atlanta.

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