The Des Moines Register
Metro and Iowa News
Thursday, September 21, 1995

‘Abortion pill’ test goes awry for one patient

By Tom Carney

A Waterloo doctor quarrels with reports that the Iowa trial of the “abortion pill” resulted in no complications.

Dr. Mark Louviere, a family practitioner who says he delivers lots of babies, said one of his patients lost more ‘than half her blood, ‘ came close to death and needed surgery two weeks after taking RU-486 known as the abortion pill.

Louviere said the patient, whom he declined to identify, participated in the trial through Planned Parenthood of Central Iowa. The Des Moines clinic was among 17 sites around the country involved in the trial.

He said he supports keeping abortions legal and supports Planned Parenthood, but he suspects that the agency isn’t reporting the true results of the trials because of “the political volatility of the abortion issue.”

Jill June, president of Planed Parenthood of Greater Iowa, said “nothing could be further from the truth.”

Her organization from the start has reported that the use of the pill in Europe has been accompanied by side effects, she said. And because of the need for confidentiality until the data are analyzed, she can’t say to what extent Iowa participants experienced them.

But Louviere said he saw an Associated Press story early this month reporting that the clinical test of the pill had concluded in Iowa. And the story said there had been no complications among the 238 women who ended unwanted pregnancies without surgery.

“If near-death due to the loss of half of one’s blood volume, surgery and a transfusion of four units of blood do not qualify as a complication,” Louviere said, “I don’t know what does.”

June said “no complications” refers to the trial - that the trial was conducted successfully - and not to the condition of the participants.

However, Sandra Waldman, a spokesperson for the New York-based Population Council, which sponsored the trial, said the trial resulted in “no deaths or serious complications.” When asked whether Louviere’s patients experience qualifies as a serious complication, Waldman said it would be “within the context of what happened before.”

In France, she said, about one in 1,000 women using RU-486 bled to an extent that they needed transfusions. And she said women involved in the study were given that information before they agreed to participate.

Waldman said neither the council nor participating clinics are releasing data from the study. Results should be published by the end of the year.

Louviere acknowledges that his patient’s complication was “rare and isolated.”