What RU-486 Really Means
By Misty Dawn Mealey
October 9, 2000
I must admit that I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I found out earlier this week that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had cleared the French abortion pill, or RU-486, for use in the United States. As if "surgical" abortion wasn't morally repugnant enough, the FDA was handing out yet another way for women (and men) to end the lives of their unborn, unwanted children.
But after some careful thought, I realized that RU-486 does in no way mean that the abortion advocates have "won." Nor will it likely "forever alter the face of the abortion debate," as claimed by so many pro-choice organizations and mainstream media sources. In fact, common sense tells us that RU-486 may be one of the most insignificant drugs to hit the market in recent history.
Pro-Life Prediction/Fear # 1: RU-486 will increase the number of abortions.
This predication is probably wrong for several reasons.
The RU-486 abortion procedure, while being touted as a more "private" means to abort, is almost certainly more painful and has a hassle factor times 10 over the surgical procedure. A woman seeking to end her pregnancy this way must first visit a doctor for the initial oral dose. She must then return to the doctor two days later for another dose of a separate drug. Any practitioner worth his or her salt will also likely require at least one more visit for follow-up care.
In addition, while surgical abortions may cause a few hours of period cramp-like discomfort for the woman, RU-486 causes severe cramping and bleeding up to several days; one in 100 women will hemorrhage badly enough to require surgery. Combine these two factors-the increased amount of time it will take the woman to become "unpregnant," and the increased side effects and greater health risks-and it's easy to see why the vast majority of women seeking to abort will probably stick with the 30-minute surgical procedure that causes only minimal discomfort. The few women likely to "take advantage" of this method are those that live in rural areas where abortion facilities are inaccessible or non-existent.
Pro-life Prediction/Fear # 2: Doctors will now hand out abortions "like candy."
Again, this is probably NOT likely to happen.
Approximately 50 percent of the population of the United States is pro-life. And although polls show that 60 percent of Americans support abortion "for any reason" during the first trimester (which is the only time period for which RU-486 can be prescribed), that still leaves 40 percent of Americans that don't. This means that a significant number of doctors will morally object to prescribing RU-486 to their patients. Many will find becoming overnight abortionists-even if that only requires the distribution of a few pills-a violation of their Hippocratic Oath, in which they swore to protect and save lives. If all doctors were keen on becoming abortionists, we'd see more than the current 3 percent of them specializing in this type of "medicine."
Consequently, we will probably see a significant number of doctors state a "conscientious objection" to distributing this drug. The same movement is currently afoot among pharmacists across the country who refuse to distribute the morning-after pill. Pharmacist and RightGrrl advisory board member Karen Brauer refused to dispense the "morning-after pill" to a customer at a Kmart pharmacy in Delhi, Ohio. She was ultimately fired for her actions, and is currently suing the company. Incidentally, Brauer is also president of Pharmacists for Life, a 1,500-person organization that is the only exclusively pro-life pharmacy association.
Pro-Life Prediction/Fear # 3: Because women can abort in the privacy of their own homes, abortion will become even more acceptable to the population as a whole.
While widespread use of RU-486 would most certainly remove the front lines of the "war against abortion" from clinic sidewalks, the reality is that the "average" pro-lifer does not picket abortion facilities. Most "fight" abortion through non-violent, non-invasive means such as debate/discourse with friends, acquaintances, and family. They educate their children to respect all life, and support causes that encourage women to carry to term. Most pro-lifers see abortion as a cultural evil that exists in the hearts and minds of our fellow men and women.the clinic is merely where individuals go to manifest their desire to terminate a child.
I submit that RU-486 may actually create more moral problems than it solves, and that it may actually work to the advantage of the pro-life movement. Unlike surgical abortion, the very intimacy of aborting via RU-486 may make many women think twice before aborting in the first place. Instead of allowing a trained "professional" to vacuum out and puree her uterine contents, a woman using RU-486 must actually kill the fetus herself. The distance between one woman's conscience and the termination of her own child has been dramatically reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Interestingly, although most of the European women who've used RU-486 called it a "good experience," most of those who became pregnant and aborted again instead sought a surgical abortion. Whether this was because these women found the procedure too morally and physically invasive is not clear.
Pro-lifers are right to be concerned that yet another method of child destruction has found its way to our markets. But in all likelihood, time will show that RU-486 has more symbolic than actual significance in the abortion debate.
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© 2000 by Misty Dawn Mealey and may
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