The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday expanded its recommended use of the abortion drug mifepristone, drawing criticism from pro-life advocates who say it is harmful for women and their unborn babies, who may now be chemically aborted up to 10 weeks into pregnancy.

Mifepristone is combined with the drug misoprostol to induce an abortion. The FDA’s March 30 policy change will allow the drug to be used up to 10 weeks into pregnancy instead of seven.

“The FDA has bowed to pressure from drug companies and abortion advocates, but the ones who will feel the deplorable effects of this change will be the women sent home to endure a painful and shocking process by themselves and of course their babies,” Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a physician and advisory board member with The Catholic Association, said March 31.

Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor at The Catholic Association, also criticized the determination.

"Anyone who approves of the FDA's decision to extend at-home medical abortions up to 10 weeks of pregnancy should consult WebMD’s description of the 10 week old baby a woman will encounter as the abortion proceeds,” she said.

That description reads: “Your baby is still small but looks and acts like a baby. Arms and legs are longer and can bend at the elbows and knees.”

Abortion providers and pro-abortion rights advocates welcomed the FDA decision.

Opponents of the drug cited the FDA’s summary of its reported adverse effects. Between September 2000 and April 2011, 14 women died from the drug, more than 600 were hospitalized, and 58 women had ectopic pregnancies because of it.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research center with historical connections to abortion provider Planned Parenthood, has estimated that medication-induced abortions made up as much as 25 percent of all abortions in 2011.

The new instructions also allow lower dosages (200mg rather than 600mg) and fewer doctor visits (two rather than three) for women who use the drug, the New York Times reports. It has been suggested that the lower dose may have fewer side effects.

In recent years, doctors who prescribed the abortion drug often did not follow the FDA's instructions for it, saying new evidence justified “off-label” use. Some states have passed laws requiring doctors to prescribe the drug according to the FDA label instructions.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) strongly criticized the decision.

“Not only is mifepristone used to kill babies, it is a poison that has harmed and even killed women,” he said. He charged that the decision would put the health and lives of women and children at risk.

“At the behest of the abortion industry, the Obama Administration has extended the use of the drug to 10 weeks of pregnancy,” he said March 30.

“Abortion advocates today are celebrating FDA’s expansion of ‘medication abortion,’ but women who have suffered the trauma of a mifepristone abortion know that it is not ‘medication’— this chemical poison is not designed to heal, or cure, or mitigate pain.”

Smith said mifepristone has controversial origins. President Bill Clinton, in his first years in office, ordered the FDA to re-evaluate the drug’s status. When drug manufacturers refused to bring the drug to the United States, the influential NGO the Population Council licensed the drug.

According to Smith, abortion proponents created the company Danco for the sole purpose of distributing the drug in the U.S. He charged that the drug’s approval was pushed through in 2000 at the close of the Clinton administration under strong political pressure.