Thursday, December 6, 2007

Virginia man who caused miscarriage gets 5 years

Men once had to resort to violence in attempting to end their partners' pregnancies, but now they have a frightening and more surreptitious means at their disposal: spiking the woman's beverages with medications used to induce abortion.  In addition to the Wisconsin case in the news last week, the Appleton Post-Crescent reports today:

A Virginia man was sentenced to a prison term last month for surreptitiously giving his girlfriend a medication that caused a miscarriage.

Although the drug used was different than RU-486 — the "morning after contraceptive" Manish Patel, of the Town of Kaukauna, is accused of slipping his lover — the case parallels Patel's Outagamie County case in some ways, according to the Associated Press and Virginia news outlets....

According to the Associated Press, when the 19-year-old student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., had a miscarriage 11 weeks into her pregnancy last February, she wasn't at first suspicious.

Her boyfriend, 21-year-old Daniel Riase, had argued with her — and punched her in the stomach — when she told him she was having second thoughts about having an abortion, but then he seemed to dote on her.

She thought the miscarriage was due to natural causes. However, a few days later she found an e-mail and discovered Riase had purchased a drug on the Internet, and gave it to her in a glass of milk, causing the miscarriage.

The drug, misoprostol, or the trade name Cytotec, is used to induce labor, soften the cervix and cure ulcers.

Riase last month pleaded guilty to aggravated malicious wounding leading to the involuntary termination of a woman's pregnancy and one count of adulterating a drink, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Please note that the story confuses mifepristone (brand-name Mifeprex, also known as RU-486) (the early abortion pill) with emergency contraception (brand-name Plan B).  Emergency contraception works after intercourse to prevent pregnancy from occurring.  It will not disrupt an established pregnancy.  Had the Wisconsin man tried to use emergency contraception, he would have failed to cause a miscarriage.

Misoprostol (brand-name Cytotec), the drug used in the Virginia case, is an ulcer medication with multiple off-label uses that has long been available in the U.S. on the black market.  It induces contractions that cause an abortion.  The Wisconsin man, however, reportedly is alleged to have used mifepristone, a drug specifically approved by the FDA for abortion.  Given that the drug is typically used in conjunction with misoprostol, I wonder whether there are particular dangers to a pregnant woman who unknowingly ingests it.  While mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone needed to maintain the pregnancy, it is the subsequent administration of misoprostol that usually induces the contractions that cause the woman to expel the embryo.

Learn more about mifepristone.  Learn more about emergency contraception and how it differs from the early abortion pill.

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