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Abortion the Cheap Easy Way

1 September 2006

Vol. 8, No. 34

Dear Colleague

There is an inexpensive, low-hassle alternative to electric machines for surgical abortion.  Unfortunately, manual vacuum aspirators (MVAs) are becoming more common but have never been examined by the FDA for safety. Whether you are here or abroad, please e-mail jad@pop.org with information about the safety or efficacy of MVAs.

Steven W. Mosher President

Abortion the Cheap and Easy Way

When slightly knowledgeable people think of early-term abortion methods, they typically think of a vacuum cutterage machine that purees an unborn child like a strawberry fruit smoothie before the bloody mixture is vacuumed out. However, the pureeing part is often not necessary. Newborn infants are well-known for having soft bodies and even soft heads. In the early stages of pregnancy, an unborn baby is so soft that he can simply be sucked through a tube. The power of the suction alone will tear apart and crush the child, like putting a new baby on top of a pool drain. And a cheap, handheld device used to abort unborn children this way is becoming increasingly popular in the United States-despite never being certified as safe.

Electric vacuum aspiration machines exist for this purpose, but so do the cheaper manual vacuum aspirators (MVAs). MVAs are cheap and easy to use, making them popular for use in the Third World. They are small, light, and require little maintenance and no electricity. What better device to use for eliminating children in the remote villages and rural areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America? You don't even need a doctor. Plus, instead of having the proceeds go to some Communist Chinese manufacturer, they often go to our very own, North Carolina-based Ipas, an offshoot of Planned Parenthood that is a leading maker of MVAs.

'Because the technology is low-cost and does not require electricity, for example, its use can help make post-abortion care and safe legal abortion available in community-based health care settings, including in remote areas,' Ipas itself says. 'MVA [manual vacuum aspiration] can be performed as an outpatient procedure, without the need for operating-room facilities, by physicians or by trained nurses, midwives, nurse practitioners and other midlevel providers. These qualities help reduce delays women often face in obtaining needed care, which contribute to poor health outcomes.'

MVAs aren't used just in the Third World, but in the United States as well. Says Ipas, 'Many providers find MVA particularly suitable for very early abortion (before 7 weeks since the woman's last menstrual period) because its gentle yet effective suction allows for significantly less disruption of the products of conception than typically occurs with electric vacuum aspiration, making it easier to confirm pregnancy termination.' That means the baby's body parts are more readily identifiable because they are left more intact than after electric aspiration or cutterage. (Please note: You, dear reader, are a product of conception.)

In fact, MVA prevalence in America is on the rise. 'Its use in the United States and other industrialized countries is increasing as providers recognize the benefits this low-technology technique offers even in sophisticated health care settings,' says Ipas.

Yet, are MVAs safe? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responsible for regulating the sale of medical devices, doesn't know, and hasn't tried to find out. Like mercury-laden amalgam fillings in teeth, MVAs have been around long enough that they have been grandfathered in. They never have been, and are not legally required to be, reviewed for safety and efficacy by the FDA.

In a July 20, 2006 response to written questions from Rep. Chris Smith (R.-N.J.), an FDA official wrote, 'Regarding what clinical trial data FDA used in approving MVAs, as stated in the answer to #2 above, the devices were legally-marketed prior to May 28, 1976, and therefore, FDA did not perform a pre-market review of these devices.' And, said FDA, none is required as long as newer MVA models don't change too much from the old. Ipas sells models, such as the MVA Plus, developed long after 1976. The FDA doesn't know if the new models should have been reviewed, because 'manufacturers are primarily responsible for determining whether changes that are made to their device require the submission of' the right form.

As these simple handheld devices suck unborn children out of wombs the world over each day, we have to wonder what they may be doing to the mothers, too.

NOTE: PRI is gathering information about the use of MVAs and would like to hear from knowledgeable people about MVAs' safety and efficacy, whether in America or abroad. Please e-mail jad@pop.org with any information you may have.

Joseph A. D'Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute.

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