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Legal Clash Over Abortion Medication Hides A Disturbing Truth
Abortion is prescribed more freely, with less followup
For the past several years, the majority of abortions in America have been performed chemically, through the use of abortion medication — the combination of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. As the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reported:
Guttmacher Institute’s periodic census of all known abortion providers show that in 2020, medication abortion accounted for 53% of US abortions. That year is the first time medication abortion crossed the threshold to become the majority of all abortions and it is a significant jump from 39% in 2017, when Guttmacher last reported these data. Preliminary data originally published in February 2022 showed that medication abortion accounted for 54% of all abortions in the US.
To go from 6 percent of abortions twenty years ago to 54 percent is a huge jump. The path these drugs took to approval by the Food and Drug Administration more than two decades ago was particularly politicized, with a bizarre financial story to boot. The manufacturing rights to the French RU-486 drug had been donated in 1994 to an American non-profit — The Population Council, the population control group founded in 1952 by John D. Rockefeller III. The non-profit transferred those same rights to a shady LLC based in the Cayman Islands, which The Washington Post called at the time “secretive and obscure”. The spokesman described themselves as humanitarian — the company’s medical director, the former medical director for Planned Parenthood of New York City, said “I'm not in this to get rich, because it's not going to make me any money” — though they allowed that they hoped to eventually turn a profit.
And what a profit they turned. Mother Jones had a deep dive on this a few months back that is worth reading:
But the small group of investors who backed the Population Council’s drive to manufacture and distribute the drug since its earliest days have made a lot of money on the mifepristone business—tens of millions of dollars, according to court filings. Their windfall has come through a byzantine corporate structure set up in the 1990s by a private equity fund, now called MedApproach Holdings, to allow investors to pour money into Danco Labs—until 2019 the only US retailer of mifepristone—without disclosing their identities. As states have imposed ever-stricter limits on abortion access, their investments have generated hefty returns.
On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last June, undoing the federal right to abortion—and the FDA’s announcement, in January, that retail pharmacies can now sell abortion pills—these investors are likely to earn even more, as medication abortion becomes the only option for millions of women living in the 26 states where abortion is now illegal or severely restricted. The potential is so promising that two of the primary investors have engaged in a bitter court battle to take control of the investment, and Danco itself.
Their story has a dizzying plot that involves Cayman Islands shell companies, LLCs named after racehorses, a shadowy priest, a disbarred attorney, and a finance whiz behind an infamous Wall Street hedge fund collapse. The legal battle, which has been fought in three states and cost millions in attorneys’ fees, shows how investors have come to view the desperation of pregnant women as an important problem to solve—but also a golden ticket.
This brings us to the dueling abortion pill rulings, one in Texas by a Trump appointee and the other in Washington State by an Obama appointee, that put this issue on a collision course at the appeals level and perhaps as a future Supreme Court decision. The Texas decision seems to me to be very weak on a number of points — you can read the judge’s decision here. But it does highlight something that should receive more notice than it does: the dramatic shift in policy toward mifepristone in a relatively short time frame.
Upon its approval back in 2000, there were numerous medical requirements attached to the dispensing of the drug — requirements that have since then been swept aside. Quoting from the judge’s decision:
FDA’s requirements for distribution in its 2000 Approval originally included:
In-person dispensing from the doctor to the patient;
Secure shipping procedures;
Tracking system ability;
Use of authorized distributors and agents; and
Provision of the drug through direct, confidential physician distribution systems that ensures only qualified physicians will receive the drug for patient dispensing.
FDA’s 2016 Changes to this regulatory scheme included the following alterations:
Extending the maximum gestational age at which a woman or girl can abort her unborn child from 49 days to 70 days;
Altering the mifepristone dosage from 600 mg to 200 mg, the misoprostol dosage from 400 mcg to 800 mcg, and misoprostol administration from oral to buccal;
Eliminating the requirement that administration of misoprostol occur in-clinic;
Broadening the window for misoprostol administration to include a range of 24–48 hours after taking mifepristone, instead of 48 hours afterward;
Adding a repeat 800 mcg buccal dose of misoprostol in the event of incomplete chemical abortion;
Removing the requirement for an in-person follow-up examination after an abortion;
Allowing “healthcare providers” other than physicians to dispense and administer the chemical abortion drugs; and
Eliminating the requirement for prescribers to report all non-fatal serious adverse events from chemical abortion drugs.
The ramifications to the system have been felt, particularly in the instance of consequences from failing to properly identify the age of the unborn child and failing to properly identify an ectopic pregnancy. The push to dramatically increase wide availability of the abortion pill — one accelerated even in recent years because of the pandemic — has come at the cost of sepsis, hemorrhage, hundreds of life-threatening situations and at least 20 deaths (well, more if you include the children). From a responsible perspective, shouldn’t this be something we care about?
The wide availability of contraception is one of the reasons the case against abortion became stronger in recent decades. People became increasingly disgusted with the idea that abortion was being used not in extreme circumstances, but as a substitute for contraception. But one reason for that wide availability is that the risks associated with it are low. If the risk for adverse events from use of the abortion pill is higher than once thought, shouldn’t the regulations on its prescription at least revert to the way things were back in the far off time of 2015? Or is that not caring about women?
A Discomforting Intel Leak on Ukraine
One of the most significant leaks of highly classified U.S. documents in recent history began among a small group of posters on a messaging channel that trafficked in memes, jokes and racist talk.
Sometime in January, seemingly unnoticed by the outside world, an anonymous member of a group numbering just over a dozen began to post files—many labeled as top secret—providing details about the war in Ukraine, intercepted communications about U.S. allies, such as Israel and South Korea, and details of American penetration of Russian military plans, among other topics.
The documents, which appear to have numbered in the hundreds, stayed among the members of the tiny group on the Discord messaging platform until early March, when another user reposted several dozen of them to another group with a larger audience. From there, at least 10 files migrated to a much bigger community focused on the Minecraft computer game.
On Wednesday, with the U.S. government apparently still unaware, a Russian propaganda account on Telegram posted a crudely doctored version of one of the documents, alongside a few unedited ones.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department are now on a sprawling hunt for answers on how the dozens of images that purport to show secret documents surfaced online. A government probe, launched Friday at the request of the Defense Department, is searching for the source of the leak.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said Sunday night the department was reviewing and assessing the validity of the photographed documents “that appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material.” She said the U.S. had discussed the matter with allies over the weekend and was weighing the potential national security impact of the breach.
The intelligence leak is shaping up to be one of the most damaging in decades, officials said. The disclosure complicates Ukraine’s spring offensive. It will likely inhibit the readiness of foreign allies to share sensitive information with the U.S. government. And it potentially exposes America’s intelligence sources within Russia and other hostile nations.
Dylan Mulvaney’s Parody of Womanhood
We live in a world where a man who masquerades as a sportswoman is showered with praise and money while an actual sportswoman is branded a ‘stupid fucking bitch’ and punched in the face. A world where a bloke can be paid thousands of dollars to prance around in a sports bra in a grotesque parody of a female athlete while a real female athlete is set upon by a seething mob and told to ‘go the fuck home’. A world where a man in leggings doing a sub-Dick Emery satire on womanhood is held up as a role model while a young woman who trained her whole life to be an elite athlete is damned as a bigot and – direct quote – a ‘transphobic bitch’.
These are the cases of Dylan Mulvaney and Riley Gaines. Mulvaney is a 26-year-old man who labours under the delusion that he’s a girl. For the past year, in the modern Bedlam of TikTok, he’s been documenting his ‘journey to girlhood’, his ‘man-to-girl transition’, as the Daily Mail called it, brilliantly capturing the post-truth lunacy and outright sleaziness of this fully grown bloke saying ‘I’m a girl!’.
Gaines is a woman – one of the old-fashioned ones, the ones with vaginas, as Ricky Gervais calls them – who excels in swimming. She’s a champion college swimmer in the US and she is pretty ticked off that big burly blokes like Lia Thomas – six-foot-one, bepenised, full of that muscle mass bestowed on the male of the species by puberty – has been allowed to compete against women like her. Mulvaney and Gaines have both hit the headlines in recent days, and their stories show just how toxic and menacing the cult of transgenderism has become.
Mr Mulvaney made the news for securing a sweet sponsorship deal with Nike Women. He posted a video of himself doing a workout in Nike Women’s Zenvy leggings and Alate bra. I say workout. It’s less Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect and more Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Show. He does naff high kicks and star jumps, all while wearing a look of mouth-agape ditziness. Girls, what are you like! As many pissed-off women have pointed out, it looks nothing like a woman doing a workout. It looks more like a camp actor auditioning for A Chorus Line. Which, fundamentally, is what Dylan Mulvaney is. And yet he’s garlanded with praise. Corporations throw money at him. He’s treated as a real woman – or, shudder, girl – including by the White House.
The Death of Christian Privilege
In a cemetery near the fishing village of Mousehole, in Cornwall, stands a memorial stone to Dolly Pentreath. Erected in 1860, it commemorates her death in 1777: already, by then, the last known native speaker of the Cornish language.
What would it be like to watch your language die over your lifetime? A language encodes a way of looking at the world, as much as of interacting with others. The many Inuit words for “snow” may or may not be apocryphal, but the legend captures something true: a language goes into great detail on subjects its speakers believe important. What would it be like to be the only one left for whom these words, those sentences, felt natural and obvious?
In a similar way, a religious faith is a moral language. A faith goes into great detail on themes its speakers believe important. Moral languages can also die, or evolve into something new, as (for whatever reason) its adherents stop passing on its grammar and priorities.
These gloomy thoughts percolated last Sunday as I sat, with my daughter on my lap, gazing around the 800-year-old nave of a little Norman church near our home, as we listened to the Palm Sunday reading of the Passion of Christ. This story is the heart of the Christian faith: it describes an incarnate God, acclaimed in his own capital city as Messiah — and betrayed in the moment of worldly triumph. It tells of that deity swarmed by a mocking crowd, and abandoned by even the disciples who swore never to do so. It recounts his death on the cross, as a criminal flanked by criminals, crying out at the last moment of agony about having been forsaken by the God in whom he trusted.
Today, we view the cross through a 2,000-year prism of Christian meanings. In the pre-Christian tradition absorbed into that symbolism, though, it was often held to symbolise the four material elements of earth, air, fire, and water. And from this perspective, we might read the Crucifixion as in part the story of a God that doesn’t just willingly take on flesh, but also the profound suffering that comes with embodied life: limitation, pain, and — finally — agonising death, in the certainty of having been forsaken by the divine.
And in this sense, the two-millennia trajectory of the Christian Church also echoes the Passion narrative. A faith born among the poor, rising to immense worldly reach and power; even in that little church, one of thousands throughout England, gravestones and memorials mark more than 800 years of the great and the good whose lives pepper this story. Then, the same institution, crippled from within at the moment of peak political reach, and now spiralling toward irrelevance.
Items of Interest
“Maundy Thursday is so called because that night, the night before he was betrayed, Jesus gave the command, the mandatum, that we should love one another. Not necessarily with the love of our desiring, but with a demanding love, even a demeaning love—as in washing the feet of faithless friends who will run away and leave you naked to your enemies.”
— Richard John Neuhaus