An 18-year-old who had concealed her pregnancy died of complications after she took a RU-486, one week after she began taking the abortion pill.
Holly Patterson, who lived in the San Francisco suburb of Livermore, visited a Planned Parenthood clinic Sept. 10 to take the pill. She followed the prescribed procedure for using RU-486, taking two more pills at home in the following days.
After experiencing bleeding and cramps so severe that she was unable to walk, her boyfriend rushed her to the hospital, where she was given painkillers and sent home. She was back in the hospital a few days later and died on Sept. 17.
Her father said he had no idea that his daughter was pregnant or that she was taking abortion drugs.
“Every time I think about it, I think, ’She suffered in silence,”’ said Monty Patterson. “She felt she would disappoint everyone around her, and then she had to carry that whole load. I wish she could have told me so I could have helped her.”
Monty Patterson later learned that a massive infection caused by fragments of the fetus left inside his daughter’s uterus caused her to go into septic shock. Planned Parenthood says it is now investigating Patterson’s death.
Danco Laboratories, which makes RU-486, estimates that 150,000 women in the United States and more than 600,000 worldwide have used the pill since it was invented in France in the 1980s.
Two women who took it in the United States have died, although the FDA says it is unclear if their deaths were directly related to the pill’s use.
Patients who take RU-486 take the first pill under the care of a physician. A second medication called misoprostol, taken three days later, induces labor so the embryo can be expelled.
Planned Parenthood’s web site compares the process to having a miscarriage. In 5 to 8 percent of cases, surgery is required to stop the patient’s bleeding.
Eric Schaff, chair of the National Abortion Federation, which promotes non-surgical abortion, said aspirin causes more deaths than RU-486.
Although he said he did not blame the pill for his daughter’s death, Monty Patterson regretted that she and her boyfriend hadn’t received more information and support from family members, counselors and physicians.
“What’s disturbing is these young couples, they are relying upon what they think is good, solid info, and relying on what they think is a supportive network telling them everything is OK,” he said. “I would have said, ’You know what, they don’t know everything. Let’s get more information.”’