How abortion pills almost killed me - Dr Joanna Howe

How abortion pills almost killed me by Elly Stewart*

How abortion pills almost killed me

By Elly Stewart*

As a woman who has recently undertaken treatment with Misoprostol (the first drug in the 2-step abortion pills regime) to help pass a missed miscarriage, I am gravely concerned for the wellbeing of Australian women in rural and regional communities now that the Albanese government has introduced unsupervised self-administration of these abortion pills in areas where there is limited access to emergency services.

My experience was horrific. 

I had just found out that my twins had died during an ultrasound but my body had failed to miscarry them. This is known as a failed miscarriage and my doctor assured me that taking Misoprostol would help me to pass the babies, without surgery. 

I was never told that abortion pills are the abortion method with the greatest rate of complication and that Mifepristone and Misoprostol have a history of incomplete abortion, leaving retained products and causing uterine infection.

This is precisely what I experienced when given Misoprostol to assist my missed miscarriage. The three-day bloody expulsion process was extremely excruciating and traumatic. I was grateful to be in a hospital environment with the support of professional nursing staff, my husband, and strong Endone for much needed pain relief. Nurses explained to my husband that some women go into shock when passing the baby, as she can get stuck on the way out. They told him the signs to look for and urged him to ring the bell immediately if I showed any of these signs, as it could be fatal.

I was given a bowl to collect all “products” that I passed, and when my twins arrived, I saw them - floating in the bowl of blood. I couldn’t comprehend why their little lives had ended so soon. I will never forget what they looked like. 

But the traumatic ordeal wasn’t over. 

Twelve days after taking Misoprostol I was back in hospital undergoing a dilation and curettage for 3cm of retained placenta. The process had been incomplete, even though I had been monitored through it by nurses and had an ultrasound scan in hospital before being discharged 

But even weeks after the D&C, I was back at hospital for antibiotics for the infection that the retained placenta caused. 

The decision by the Albanese government to remove the safeguards protecting women before they access abortion pills is one that leaves me greatly disturbed. It risks the lives of rural women by allowing the at-home administration of these drugs. Given their geographical isolation, rural women are typically many hours from emergency hospital care.  

Just like backyard abortions were dangerous for women’s health in the past, so too, are unsupervised abortion pills for women’s health today. At-home abortion pills are not a safe option for women in rural communities far from medical facilities. As Mayo Clinic advises, "Medical abortion isn't an option if you can't make follow-up visits to your doctor or don't have access to emergency care." Advocating for unsupervised self-administration of high complication abortion pills out in rural communities isn’t women’s health care. The Albanese government’s deregulation of abortion pills will put rural women at great risk and should be rejected.

*Elly Stewart is not the author’s real name.