A new study found a number of potentially harmful side effects linked to chemically induced abortions, the most common non-surgical method used in the United States.
A team of behavioral neuroscientists at the Franciscan University of Steubenville released the findings of a three-year study that found biological, physiological, and behavioral changes among rats who received mifepristone and misoprostol. The study found decreases in the appetite, exploratory movement, and self-care of lab rats which ingested the abortion drugs. The neuroscientists also found a decrease in vaginal impedance, which may reflect a reduced ability to conceive, similar to that seen with the aging process. The study is published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, a multidisciplinary, international journal led by Idan Segev of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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Dr. Stephen Sammut, a professor of psychology at Franciscan University and leader of the study, told the Washington Free Beacon that while most people assume patterns of depression in abortion patients are a result of societial pressure, his study could provide a physiological link. However, he noted that further research and analysis is needed.
"The findings of this study are an important step forward in shedding some light into what happens following a chemically induced abortion and also raise more questions," he said. "For example, we need to understand better what is going on in the brain as a result of the pregnancy termination that could have led to the negative behaviors we observed."
The rats were given mifepristone and misoprostol—two common abortion drugs that are taken orally in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain the pregnancy. Misoprostol stimulates the uterus, which causes bleeding and eventually aborts the baby.
Critics of animal testing note that the studies don’t always accurately reflect effects on humans. Sammut says his team’s methods were conducted in accordance with the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals published by the National Institutes of Health, and was approved by the Franciscan University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.
"While animals are different from humans, there is a lot in our physiology—including brain physiology—and behavior that is similar," he said. "As a result, animal models provide us with a possibility to investigate the physiological basis to human behavior in a very controlled environment."
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration ordered Aid Acess—a European company that sells similar abortion pills online—to refrain from doing business in the U.S. due to their selling of new, unapproved drugs.
Aid Access did not respond for comment regarding the study's potential impact on their business.
Sammut says he hopes his work will help focus the abortion debate on science, rather than partisanship.
"The role of the scientist is to, objectively and independently from ideology, conduct the investigation and provide the necessary information to allow appropriate evidence-based decisions," he said. "The scientific method cannot be ideologically driven, but only driven by the desire to seek and understand the truth."