After two judges last week issued conflicting rulings regarding access to mifepristone — a safe, effective medication used for abortion care and miscarriage management as part of a two-drug protocol — CNN hosted Laura Echevarria, the director of communications for the anti-abortion group National Right to Life, on April 10. Despite some pushback from CNN Newsroom anchor Fredricka Whitfield, Echevarria was mostly allowed to push misleading and false claims about the medication.
Claim: Echevarria stated that “we know that the drug [mifepristone] has the ability to harm women” and that there are “inconsistencies” in the Food and Drug Administration safety record for the medication.
Facts: Mifepristone has been proven time and time again to be safe and effective for those using it for abortion purposes. The Center for American Progress notes, “The FDA has evaluated its safety at least four times in the more than 22 years it has been on the market.” Mifepristone has been shown to be “highly effective with low complication rates” and is regarded by health care professionals as being safer than drugs like Tylenol and Viagra.
Claim: Echevarria incorrectly said, “We’re talking about a drug that is given to a woman who is healthy and has a healthy pregnancy, and it is not a drug designed to cure an illness. It is not a drug designed to cure a disease. It is not designed to save a life. The purpose of the development of the drug is to take human life. And at this time this drug only has one other use, it is used in Cushing’s disease.”
Facts: Echevarria is wrong: Mifepristone is used not only for abortions but also to manage early miscarriages. In fact, according to Scientific American, “There is a strong consensus among scientific experts that mifepristone is safe, effective and superior to alternatives for both early abortion and early miscarriage care.” Additionally, mifepristone could potentially be used to treat a variety of other diseases, including breast, brain, and prostate cancers, as well as other conditions such as depression. Whitfield attempted to push back on Echevarria, noting that “the judge is not a doctor” and that this drug “may help save the woman’s life.” Echevarria pushed still more anti-abortion talking points and repeated that “this drug is designed to take human lives.”
Claim: At the end of the segment, Echevarria falsely claimed that “even the studies that have been done by the abortion industry” have shown that mifepristone “puts women in harm’s way.” She mentioned a “Canadian study that found that 10% of women have severe side effects that can put them in the hospital.”
Facts: Though Echevarria did not mention the specific study, she is seemingly talking about a February 2023 Canadian study that compared the mifepristone-misoprostol protocol (medication abortion) to procedural induced abortion. The study found that “severe complications occurred in 3.3 per 1000 women after medication versus 1.8 per 1000 women after an abortion procedure in a nonhospital clinic and 3.4 per 1000 after an abortion procedure in a hospital-based clinic.” In other words, mifepristone-misoprostol abortions did produce slightly more complications than procedural abortions, “especially for less serious adverse outcomes,” but despite Echevarria’s claim, the medication does not put “women in harm’s way,” as complications with both types of abortions are “rare in the 42 days after first-trimester abortion.” Whitfield let Echevarria spew this misinformation without any pushback or fact-checking.
Research contributions from Samuel Sparzo