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Behind the Holly Patterson Story

Holly Patterson died two weeks after her 18th birthday. Blonde and beautiful, graduating high school after three years, this young native of the San Francisco area had her whole life in front of her. But then she entered a Planned Parenthood clinic without her parents' knowledge and took the abortion-drug cocktail known as RU-486. Within a week, she was dead of septic shock, infected by pieces of the baby she was trying to expel.

The heartbreaking human interest of Holly's story did break through the national media's usual political defenses at least for a story or two. Morning shows on ABC and CBS, as well as evening shows on CNN and MSNBC reported it (although it couldn't be located on abortion-phobic Fox).

But the real story took place three years ago.

In September 2000, the Clinton administration rushed the approval of RU-486 through the Food and Drug Administration in case Al Gore's campaign wouldn't prevail to provide aid and comfort to the abortion industry.

None of the liberal media's anti-corporate impulses were excited by the plans of the abortion lobby and Danco Laboratories, the American manufacturers of RU-486, to surpass all the usual FDA safety procedures in a rush to profit from newly approved chemical abortions. Instead, it was all an occasion for joy. On NBC's "Today," news anchor Sara James proclaimed: "Abortion rights supporters call it a victory over medical McCarthyism."

Before RU-486 was approved, pro-life criticism was dismissed as political noise. Since then, all their criticism has been systematically dismissed by the press.

Last August, a group of pro-life researchers - the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Concerned Women for America, and the Christian Medical Association - filed a 90-page "citizen's petition" with the FDA outlining how Clinton's FDA ignored its own laws and procedures to rubber-stamp Mifeprex, one half of the two-drug RU-486 regimen. Mifeprex kills the baby by destroying the nutrient lining of the uterus. A few days later, Misopristol is used to expel the corpse from the womb. Here's what went wrong:

1. Lobbyists railroaded FDA approval through the accelerated review process known as "Subpart H," designed only for drugs intended to treat life-threatening illnesses where there is no safer remedy. Only in Washington is a healthy but unwanted baby considered a life-threatening illness. In fact, Holly's story suggests the opposite: terminating the baby caused a life-ending illness.

2. The FDA regulations overlooked the usual scientific safeguards used in clinical trials. For example, while the trials used sonograms to determine the age of the fetus, FDA regulations have not required an ultrasound before usage - even though the drug is not recommended for pregnancies beyond 49 days' gestation and it does not terminate ectopic (fallopian-tube) pregnancies. Whether or not Holly Patterson had an ectopic pregnancy is a crucial factor in investigating her death. In a previous case, an American woman bled to death because of a ruptured tubal pregnancy that wasn't distinguished from the normal heavy bleeding typical of an RU-486 abortion.

3. The FDA failed to test the drug on adolescents like Holly Patterson - even though they represent a target market, since clinics advertise it as an abortion method that increases privacy. No doubt Holly thought RU-486 was preferable because it evaded a surgical procedure.

4. The FDA normally requires that the selection of patients in a drug trial be random, that some patients receive a placebo to create a control group, and that participating physicians are not told who is and is not receiving the actual medication. In the FDA's supposedly scientific trials for Mifeprex, the selection of subjects was not random, and no one received a placebo.

This petition was ignored by the networks. But they also ignored Danco's admission to the FDA in April 2002 that no less than 400 women suffered complications after using RU-486. Two women had died after using Mifeprex, one from that ruptured tubal pregnancy and one from a fatal bacterial infection. Canadian drug trials were halted when a participating woman died.

Holly's father, Monty Patterson, learned about the problem too late. He told the San Francisco Chronicle, "The medical community treats this as a simple pill you take, as if you're getting rid of a headache. The procedure, the follow-ups, it's all too lackadaisical. The girl gets a pill. Then she's sent home to do the rest on her own. There are just too many things that can go wrong."

Will anything happen to prevent more teenage girls from dying? Here's two reasons for pessimism. The FDA has no enforcement mechanism that requires Danco to share all the reports it receives on negative effects. And there is no greater supporter of unrestricted abortion in American society than that "watchdog" entity entrusted to shed light on this horror.