An Open Letter From the Parents of Holly Patterson - Death by RU-486

November 6, 2003

Dear Sir or Madam:

The Alameda County Coroner's report has validated what we already believed to be true. Holly has died from an RU-486 chemical induced abortion. There are no quick fixes for a pregnancy or magical pills that will make it go away. Our family, friends and community are all deeply saddened and forever marred by Holly's tragic and preventable death.

Holly lived as an adult by law for only 19 days, yet she became pregnant when she was just 17 years old. We now know that she learned about her pregnancy in the second week of August and was so distraught over her unplanned pregnancy that she sought help for depression from her family doctor on September 10, 2003 - the very day that she began the drug induced abortion process.

Holly was a strong, healthy, intelligent and ambitious teenager who fell victim of a process that wholly failed her, beginning with the 24-year-old man who had unprotected sex with her, impregnated her, and then proceeded to facilitate the secrecy that surrounded her pregnancy and abortion. Under this conspiracy of silence, Holly suffered and depended on the safety of the FDA approved pill administered by Planned Parenthood and emergency room treatment by Valley Care Medical Center where she received pain killers for severe cramping and was sent home. On Saturday and Sunday, Holly cried and complained of severe cramping and constipation, and even allowed us to comfort her but could not tell us what she was really going through. On September 17, 2003, she succumbed to septic shock and died while many members of our family waited anxiously, yet expectantly in the Critical Care Unit for her to recover until we were forced behind the curtain when it was clear that she was dying.

And in those last moments of her life feeling utter disbelief and desperation we formed a circle just beyond the curtain and prayed aloud, cried and screamed, "We love you, Holly" hoping beyond hope that those words would ring out and save her life. And the other members of our family who drove and flew from all over the country to be by her side did not make it in time to say, "I love you" just one last time. Holly was not alone, unloved, unprotected or unsupported; she had a large family who willingly supported her throughout her short life and tragic death.

In the weeks since we buried Holly's body we are now able to recall and share the memories of our daughter's brilliant blue eyes, engaging smile, laughter, unwavering determination and sheer gentle beauty that invoked our natural instinct to protect and love her, but we will never be able to forget those last moments of her life when she was too weak to talk and could barely squeeze our hands in acknowledgement of our words of encouragement. "We love you, Holly", "Just hang in there, the whole family is coming," "You fight this Holly, you can do it."

Because Holly has died this way, we have educated ourselves about the grave dangers of this drug, become conscious of the current lack of parental notification/consent laws in California and now recognize the critical need for accurate, impartial sources of information and resources for parents, teenagers and young women who want to learn about the real dangers and risks of unplanned pregnancy and abortion and the dire need for a national movement to encourage prevention and open dialogue in the home about unplanned pregnancy and abortion.

We will actively support "Holly's Law" in Congress by Reps. DeMint, Bartlett and Senator Brownback to suspend and review the abortion drug RU-486, the Tell-A-Parent (TAP) bill, which requires parental notification laws in California and a campaign to encourage prevention and open dialogue about unplanned pregnancy and abortion in the home.

As parents, we cannot allow our beautiful Holly's horrible death to be in vain. RU-486 has caused serious injury and has been implicated in the deaths of other young women. Now it has killed our daughter. We have learned that the initial trials were rushed and the drug was lumped in and approved with drugs designed for life threatening illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. Pregnancy is a natural process that a woman's body is designed to support and has never been classified as a life threatening illness. We need help to develop a website and provide a place for teenagers and women to report their stories and testimonials of their experience on the serious and adverse affects using RU-486.

The FDA has failed to carry out its mission of ensuring RU-486 is a safe and effective abortion drug regimen. According to the FDA, it is "responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation." Holly has already paid the ultimate price.

The RU-486 abortion drug should not be either a Pro Life or Pro Choice issue. The most primary concern here must be the health and welfare of our children and young women. Hopefully, all parents can learn from Holly's horrible death and our loss. According to Danco Laboratories, the abortion drug's distributor, the RU-486 regimen fails to work 7-8 percent of the time. Over a year ago the FDA received 400 reports of adverse reactions to the drug including several deaths. Holly is yet another victim who was subject to an unacceptable risk to a drug that has a significant failure rate. And we demand that FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan and Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson take RU-486 off the market immediately pending an extensive investigation by the Comptroller General of the United States before more parents suffer and women die.

We respectfully request the name of the bill that is to be presented to the House of Representatives, an Act cited as the "[RU-486 Approval and Review Act of 2003]" to be known as "Holly's Law." We actively support a bill that halts the use of the drug that took Holly's young life.

We demand an investigation by the FDA and the California State Health Department as to why abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood are not following FDA approved regulations to administer the drug. We question the purity of the drugs they administer, especially when they are made in foreign countries, such as China.

In addition to the dangers of this drug and its administration, we believe that health care providers such as Valley Medical Care Center don't appear to be fully prepared to evaluate and treat patients with RU-486 complications in emergency situations. Holly was in the hospital twice and died within 20 minutes before her follow up appointment with Planned Parenthood.

FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan and Health and Human Services Secretary, Tommy Thompson should now have enough evidence to pull this drug from the market. How many more teenagers and young women will have to pay the price with their health or with their life, before the FDA decides to act?

Currently in California, teenage girls under the age of 18 can't get their ears pierced or go on a school trip, but they can have a medical or surgical abortion without parental knowledge or consent. This prevents parents from being able to talk to their children about a pregnancy that would allow them to keep a baby or to be able to follow the abortion process.

The first line of defense for a child is a parent. Kids wouldn't be walking into clinics under a veil of secrecy if parents were notified first hand where they could talk to their children about abortion risks. We have now learned that Holly first sought a pregnancy test in the months leading up to her pregnancy while she was still 17 years old. We know now that a parental notification law would have brought Holly's activity to our attention and her needless death could have been prevented if we had been aware and intervened.

We actively support the Tell-A-Parent (TAP) ballot initiative sponsored by Life on The Ballot With enough petitions, this initiative will be on the 2004 ballot and requires parental notification 48 hours prior to an abortion in California. As parents, we are concerned about the health and welfare of all daughters; we are "Pro Holly" and look to our California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to support this initiative for the safety and protection of all young women in California.

Finally, we have suffered greatly with the realization that it's not enough to avoid the issue or talk to our children about why we don't want them to be involved in an unplanned pregnancy or abortion, but as parents, we must also talk about the tragic realities of unwanted pregnancy and abortion and reassure both, our daughters and sons that while we don't want this to happen, we will support them. We must focus on prevention and they must be told that they are not alone in this or any other unfortunate circumstance, regardless of the outcome.

We feel very strongly that this country needs a national campaign to promote open and frank discussions in the home about unplanned pregnancy and the options that are available to our daughters who find themselves in this unfortunate predicament. We are eager to support such a campaign designed to bring about awareness, encourage parental involvement, and provide accurate information to minors, women, and parents about abstinence, birth control, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, parenting, and adoption options.

While parents would prefer that their daughters abstain from sex and many do, we must deal with the reality that many don't. In addition to unplanned pregnancy, girls can contract HIV and other STIs. As parents we need to prevent unplanned pregnancy instead of relying upon abortion clinics and agencies to educate our children and provide them with inaccurate information. No parent wants to see his or her teenage or college age daughter in the unfortunate situation that Holly was faced with.

We have lost our daughter, Holly, but we can still help to prevent this terrible tragedy from happening in other families. Holly's drive and determination to accomplish her goals gives us strength to pursue these critical issues in her name. Holly's memory and light will live on in our hearts, family, friends and our work. We will actively support the bill to suspend and review "Holly's Law" in Congress by Reps. DeMint and Bartlett and Senator Brownback to suspend and review the abortion drug RU-486, the Tell-A- Parent (TAP) bill, which requires parental notification laws in California and a campaign to encourage prevention and open dialogue about unplanned pregnancy and abortion in the home. Please contact us with any questions or requests for support of these very important issues.


Mr. and Mrs. Monty and Helen Patterson
Last updated November 31, 2003


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