No, Students for Life. Abortion Does Not Cause Pollution. Please Stop Lying.


By: Kieran Mailman

Toward the end of 2022, national anti-abortion organization Students for Life Action circulated a factually flawed, deeply concerning petition. In the petition (which is no longer available in its original form on Students for Life’s website), Students for Life made unfounded claims that abortion pills pollute the waterways, specifically condemning the provision of abortion pills to be taken at home. To be clear, there is no evidence that abortion causes any form of “pollution.” [1] Despite their claim that seeing the products of abortion after a medication abortion is “traumatic,” Students for Life used these baseless claims of “environmental risk” to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require those having a medication abortion to collect the products of their abortion in a red medical waste disposal bag. [2] There is no medical or environmental benefit from this ridiculous ‘suggestion.’ In spreading these lies and proposing these ‘solutions,’ Students for Life is attempting its usual tricks to shame and stigmatize abortion.


A webpage with the title “SIGN OUR CITIZENS PETITION TO THE FDA TO STOP CHEMICAL ABORTION DRUGS FROM HARMING HUMANS, ANIMALS, AND THE PLANET” and a header image of the inside of a sewer. The text below the header reads, “Mifepristone (the first drug of the two-pill chemical abortion regimen) components and fetal remains in wastewater have impacts beyond humans and onto animals and plants. Right now, these chemicals are in our water system, sterilizing animals and plants, and working their way back to humans through water consumption and fertilizer. Mifepristone usage results in the generation of contaminated medical waste and must be treated as such."

“Quick Facts: The residual effects of exposure to mifepristone in the nation’s waterways can cause environmental repercussions, including congenital anomalies like birth defects to animals. Proper control of drugs, hormones, and chemicals in wastewater is vital to our health and the health of other life exposed. The generator of medical waste is responsible for disposal of that medical waste. Thus, the vendors of abortion drugs ought to have been required to provide proper waste management materials to abortion pill users from the start. Sign the Petition: I am asking the FDA to: Include a provision in all prescriber requirements that a Medical Catch-Kit and Red Medical Waste Bag be included with Mifepristone (abortion drug) prescriptions. Conduct sufficient advanced studies on the impact Mifepristone (abortion drug) could have on the nation’s water supply that has been recklessly dismissed since its approval in 2000.” The petition then asks for a name, email, birth year, phone number, and verification that you are not a robot.

at the bottom of the petition are the logos for Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action, and Heartbeat International



While this petition specifically names abortion pills, the language used could negatively impact anyone on hormonal medications as the petition seeks to control “drugs, hormones, and chemicals in wastewater.” By falsely framing abortion pills and other hormonal medications as biological contaminants, Students for Life has opened the door to having abortion pill providers and manufacturers charged with mishandling hazardous waste or other false allegations that could risk criminalization. This language could also be used to introduce similar regulations on those who use birth control or gender-affirming hormone therapies, forcing them to jump through unnecessary hoops to meet the regressive demands from groups such as Students for Life. It’s not a far cry from here that we could see anyone who experiences periods to be mandated to treat their monthly cycle as medical waste on the off-chance they passed a pregnancy before knowing they were pregnant.

This claim that abortion pills and other hormonal medications are contaminating the water supply is baseless – Students for Life’s goal with this petition is to scare those seeking medication abortions in an attempt to further their (equally unrealistic) goal of an abortion-free society.

Despite the flaws in Student for Life’s logic, their petition has now been used to craft a bill that could further stigmatize abortion pills and place medication abortion even further out of reach. The “Chemical Abortion Prohibition Act,” introduced by West Virginia State Senator Patricia Rucker (R), would: require abortion pills to be provided in-person; mandate that providers give patients having a medication abortion a “catch kit and medical waste bag” in which to place the products of abortion; require patients to bring said medical waste bag back to the abortion provider for disposal; and introduces criminal penalties for providers who do not meet the criteria outlined in the bill. [3] The bill would also attempt to penalize abortion pill manufacturers if abortion pills are found in the water supply, again pulling from Students for Life’s flawed petition to increase barriers to care.

Decades of corporate greed have caused real, verifiable harm to the environment; attempting to shift the blame from the negligent corporations responsible for this damage to individuals and prescribers makes it clear that Students for Life’s concern isn’t the environment, but their own violent agenda. As such, it is vital that those of us who support the goals of reproductive justice reject this framing and all those who use it. While both Students for Life and Sen. Rucker claim they have no desire to criminalize people who have abortions, we know better: this is just the latest tactic meant to harm those who seek abortions.





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