A U.S. Company Testing Chemical Abortion on Women in Africa: What We Know

Mifepristone and Misoprostol, drugs being used by US-based Company Gynuity to test Chemical Abortion on Women in Burkina Faso
Credit: Public Domain

This is part one of a four-part news report, detailing what ACI Africa has gathered regarding activities by a U.S.-based research company testing drug-induced, second-trimester abortion, something that women in the U.S. do not want. Reactions of Church leaders in Africa who also offer a way forward are presented. Testimonies around the promotion of abortion in Africa by foreign pro-choice agencies will be provided in part two. This part reports on what ACI Africa knows about the tests.

After research initiatives on the effectiveness of abortion-inducing tablets for women who are at least 12 weeks pregnant failed to take off in the U.S., a research organization based in the same country decided, a couple of years ago, to cross several borders to the West African country of Burkina Faso to conduct the study, testing chemical abortion on women with limited resources, ACI Africa has established.

“It is true that this test is being carried out here in Burkina Faso,” a health professional privy to the clinical procedures on Africa women undertaken by the U.S.-based research company, Gynuity Health Projects, told ACI Africa on condition of anonymity.

“There was a lot of confusion when the test started because I think the Church sees in this study a way to legalize abortion,” the professional with at least 15 years of familiarity with Gynuity told ACI Africa in an interview and denied claims the study was an attempt to promote abortion in an African setting.

“We used the misoprostal in the first trimester and we know that the combination of misoprostal and mifepristone can be used for second trimester interruptions,” the practitioner disclosed the tablets used in the abortion procedure.

The use of the tablets, the practitioner said, does the same job of abortion but has the advantage of reducing “the workload of the medical personnel that we are.”

The testimony from the professional corroborated findings by the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), the research arm of the Washington D.C.-based pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, shared with ACI Africa in September.

According to CLI findings, “The Burkina Faso study began on May 20, 2017, and is estimated to finish on December 31, 2019.”

In the report submitted to ACI Africa, CLI indicated that the process of testing drug-induced abortion was initiated “to examine the effectiveness and feasibility of a mifepristone-misoprostol medical abortion regimen in terminating pregnancies 13-22 weeks in Burkina Faso.”

“Patients take 200 mg of Mifepristone and repeat doses of 400 mcg of misoprostol every three hours until abortion is achieved,” CLI noted and added in reference to the tests in Burkina Faso, “The study’s primary outcome measure is the rate of successful abortion—complete evacuation of foetus and placenta with study drugs, within 24 hours of taking misoprostol.”

“These expecting moms are given dangerous abortion drugs and then literally sent off to pass the body of her aborted child in isolation. How is that not a back-alley abortion?” the vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, Mallory Quigley told Catholic News Agency in a September interview.

Speaking to ACI Africa about the process, the health practitioner familiar with the tests confirmed the use of the drug and additional care saying, “We tried tests with Gynuity in the two university hospitals of Burkina Faso for the management of abortion with the misoprostal and included in the package post abortion care.”

“The first test was initiated in 2004 to use misoprostol in post abortion care because abortion complications were responsible for about 24% of maternal deaths,” the health practitioner revealed and justified the clinical procedure saying, “Out of 100 cases, many of the women came with complications and precisely in response to this public health problem, the reproductive health research network initiated a program on post abortion care, which has been existing since 1997.”

Asked how the tests were initiated, the health practitioner recalled, “Gynuity first looked at the effectiveness of tablets in relation to suction.”

The health expert described the results of using tablets as a “relief” and explained, “these drugs reduce aspiration practices because if some women chose to take the tablets, and with the development of digital technology, we had contact and we opened the doors. When there is a problem, they come to the centre and we take care of them.”

Those involved in administering the drugs were trained on the procedure and to look out for “indication, contraindications, and above all, references,” the health practitioner stated referencing situations in medicine when practitioners assess clients to determine when a certain medical treatment is used, when the medical treatment is withheld, and when it is necessary to refer the client for further consultations respectively.

Initially, there were four sites with doctors and nurses oriented for the established sites, “then we expanded because there were not many cases,” the practitioner disclosed to ACI Africa.

Justifying cases considered for the procedures, the health practitioner said, “The indications were given, either a pregnancy with a serious total anomaly, or pregnancies with a serious maternal pathology involving the mother's life, or certain pregnancies that were stopped clandestinely.”

The abortion process involves, according to the health practitioner, doing “an ultrasound to find the wrong formation that is incompatible with life. You have to consult the specialists before you do the abortion.”

“We are in a network and we are working, all the results are there,” the practitioner said and disclosed that the tests were positive and that the administration of tablets “gives us less work. Because there are many people who cannot leave the village and come here to the city to do so.”

“We also had to test the pathways, that is by vaginal, oral, and sublingual pathways,” the health practitioner said and went on to disclose the findings saying, “We saw that it is the sublingual route that was very effective and it made it possible to manage the problem that arises, that is, the duration of bleeding.”

Whatever the justifications, Catholic Church leaders in Africa who have spoken to ACI Africa about these tests by Gynuity Health Projects and other abortion-related initiatives in an African setting have strongly condemned the practices, terming them part of a wider strategy to take advantage of Africans.

“It was in August 2018 that the Minister of Health Nicolas Meda made a plea in favour of the American NGO Susan Thompson Buffett to the Burkinabe authorities in favour of abortion for "girls in distress," the Bishops’ Chair for Health of the Episcopal Conferece of Burkina Faso and Niger, Bishop Justin Kientega told ACI Africa.

He added, “Several voices denounced this project that will aggravate the depravity of morals and sexual libertinage.”

“At this time the Catholic doctors wanted to release a statement denouncing this move but the bishops advised them to be calm since everybody was already talking about it,” Bishop Kientega said and added, “We calmed down since the opposition parties had written precisely to denounce this sneaky manoeuvre. Of course, we see here a country that receives external funding but on condition that this or that law is passed.”

“The Catholic Church is against any initiatives that go against its teachings,” the Burkinabe Bishop said referencing the Church’s stance on abortion.

Bishop Kientega is among Church leaders who have condemned the activities by the U.S.-based entity, Gynuity Health Projects as will be reported in subsequent reports.

Look out for part two of this four-part report, which will give narratives of various Church leaders in Africa describing the current African context that seems to favor the entry of foreign entities keen to destroy human and Christian values on the continent.


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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]