Image: 'Call the Midwife'. Home births make good drama, but home abortions?

Historical fiction has been a teacher to me and to millions but I was a late comer to the award winning British series, Call the Midwife. Set in the late 1950s, it chronicles the arrival of a new midwife who works alongside the nuns at Nonnatus House serving the poorest of the poor in East London.

All do midwifery, and it has been wonderful to share in the repeated-yet-always-new joy of childbirth in each episode. That is, until the show reached the early 1960s when thalidomide had crept into medical practice. This historical fiction then became tragically real.

According to Thalidomide Victim’s Association of Canada (ACVT), thalidomide was first marketed in Germany in 1957 as a sedative, but was soon hailed as a remedy for morning sickness in pregnant women. It was used in dozens of countries for that purpose until it became clear that it was associated with severe deformities in babies such as missing limbs.

This “wonder drug” lacked the proper testing which is now standard precisely because of thalidomide’s disastrous effects.

Withdrawn from the West German and United Kingdom markets in December 1961, it – incredibly — remained legally available in Canada for another three months, and could still be purchased from some pharmacies until May 1962. According to ACVT, for many years, Canadian victims had to struggle alone, family by family, for compensation, and small lump sum payments awarded by the federal government in 1991 were soon used up. “The needs and problems of this unique population are many and overwhelming,” says the association.

Today in Canada, another drug aimed at pregnant women is making its way into standard medical practice through a bull-horn public relations campaign. The abortifacient RU486, also known as mifepristone, has been knocking on Canada’s door for several years. Health Canada opened that door in 2015. RU486 will be marketed in this country as Mifegymiso.

Canada, are you ready for the effects of this latest wonder drug for women?

Campaign Life Coalition was the political and cultural force that kept this country free of RU486. Our work resulted in Mifegymiso undergoing the longest Health Canada approval process of any drug up to that point. It became available across the country slowly, beginning last year.

Like thalidomide, Mifegymiso has a Nazi connection. IG Farben, which produced the Zyklon-B gas used in Auschwitz, was broken up after the war into three comapnies, one of them Hoechst AG, the parent company of Roussel Uclaf, which designed and marketed RU486. Like thalidomide, there is a “Europe has it, so is must be ok” attitude. Like thalidomide, the pursuit of profit is undermining the design and function of a woman’s body. Is this really the best care we can offer women who are facing a difficult pregnancy, or any difficulty?

What separates thalidomide from this drug however, is that women are the catalyst behind the screaming campaign for access to it.

Mifegymiso has a completely predictable ally that is massaging public opinion in favour of the drug. For this crowd, availability is not enough. Vocal pro-abortion activists, mostly women, aligned with a supportive media, have set out to dismantle every precautionary dispensing rule set up by Health Canada, as well as those recommended by the Canadian distributor, Celopharma Inc., and the manufacturer, Linepharma International Limited.

Lobbying against some of the initial dispensing rules put in place has been relentless. Some of those rules are: having an ultrasound scan to confirm the pregnancy, to determine gestation and whether it’s ectopic; physicians are required to witness ingestion of the first of two pills and an ultrasound requirement after the abortion.

These dispensing precautions are there to help prevent some of the serious adverse side-effects of this chemical cocktail, like deadly septic shock, unnecessary consumption if you are not pregnant, and complications from taking the drug too far along in a pregnancy.

The “abortion needs” of women in isolated communities have been the catalyst in this PR campaign, because their isolation means they “lack abortion services”. In their name, all Canadian women will now more easily be able to get the drug combo. But will women in these isolated communities be able to receive the ultrasounds that may save their lives? Is there, or is there not, a lack of physician services in those communities?

Having succeeded in swaying provincial medical bodies and Health Canada, pro-abortion activists are now aggressively lobbying for complete cost coverage of the abortifacient by each provincial health ministry. They are succeeding. The crushing weight of competing health needs under a universal healthcare system, means Canadians lose out to the abortion activists who are blind to healthcare beyond the uterus.

In Call the Midwife, the nuns of 50 years ago are unabashedly Christian in their prayer and care, and all the midwives bring a life-centered approach to their work. Still, tragedy happened because a pharmaceutical company’s drive for profit and trusting women combined to make a perfect storm.

Although RU486/ Mifegymiso has been around for decades, each country’s society pays the price for the cavalier attitude toward an abortifacient drug, whether or not government pays the cost of it. Women cannot kill their unborn children, whether at home or in a clinic, for decades upon decades, without the heart of a society being affected.

Today we have too few of the cultural mechanisms in place that uphold the dignity of human life. We have gone from the home birth to the home abortion masquerading as a victory in women’s health. Oh, Canada.

Johanne Brownrigg is the lobbyist for the Campaign Life Coalition. Based in Ottawa, Ontario, she blogs for ProWomanProLife. Follow @johanbrownrigg

Johanne Brownrigg is the lobbyist for the Campaign Life Coalition. Based in Ottawa, Ontario, she blogs for ProWomanProLife and has been published in MercatorNet. Follow @johanbrownrigg.