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Jewish World Review March 20, 2001 / 25 Adar, 5761

Paul Greenberg

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Consumer Reports


Look away, look away: The rage for RU-486

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- ABORTION has ceased to be a medical procedure and become a political imperative. Even the most minimal requirements for an abortion pill may now be denounced as an infringement on the Constitution, meaning an infringement on Roe vs. Wade, the Magna Carta of abortion.

Consider the arguments being made here in Arkansas against a bill in the Legislature that would establish standards for the use of RU-486, a drug whose sole purpose is to induce abortions.

Despite all the advertising for this "early option pill,'' its side effects can be serious -- as clinical trials have demonstrated. RU-486 may be marketed as trouble-free (if you don't read the small print) but it ain't aspirin.

You would think anyone interested in protecting the health of women would support a bill like this. The standards it sets are minimal: The doctor administering the drug would have to be qualified to handle incomplete abortions, which RU-486 has been known to induce. He should be able to get his patient admitted to a hospital if necessary. He (or she) would need to be certified in the use of ultrasound techniques -- to make sure the baby isn't too far along before this powerful drug is used. And the doctor would be required to complete a course in the use of RU-486.

The state's medical society had no objection to such a bill, which speaks well of the state's real doctors, but the abortion lobby was irate. Even though the bill passed the Arkansas House, there were 24 votes against it. Not even the simplest protections for women are acceptable to those for whom abortion has become not a medical issue but an unquestionable sacrament.

Murmur the magic words, "a woman's right to choose,'' and the rest of us are supposed to butt out, and express no concern for her safety. Abortion has become the right not just to kill the child but to endanger the mother.

Anyone who expresses doubts about the latest style of abortion, whether RU-486 or partial birth, will be told in no uncertain terms: Ask no questions. Pass no regulations. Shut up, the enlightened explain.

To quote Joyce Elliott, a state representative from Little Rock: "It's about time we recognize that abortions in this country are legal. For us to continue to throw up obstacles and interject ourselves between a woman and her doctor, I submit, is going too far.''

The same legislators just approved detailed standards to govern the staffing of nursing homes in this state, but now they're told that a matter of life and death is none of their business. This is a matter between a woman and her doctor. The rest of us are supposed to pretend that no one else is involved in this decision, no matter what the sonogram shows.

Ask no questions. Pass no regulations.

That this same state representative, Joyce Elliott, is a fierce defender of animal rights in the Legislature only adds to the feast of grisly ironies that is the politics of abortion. For when it comes to protecting women from abortions, she opposes any regulations at all.

To quote Representative Elliott, "Doctors are honorable people. They don't need us to tell them what their medical ethics are.''

So are they all, all honorable men, these abortionists -- and so are all those who send the Lesser Breeds to them. For it is black and Hispanic women, the poor and troubled of all races, who are the prime candidates for abortions in this country. Eugenics never disappeared, it just took a new name: population control.

But didn't the Food and Drug Administration bless the use of RU-486 Yes, it approved the drug through its fast-track program, which is officially entitled: Accelerated Approval of New Drugs for Serious or Life Threatening Illness. The doublespeak involved here is symptomatic of the whole culture of death: Life has become life-threatening.

Before RU-486, only a couple of dozen drugs had been certified this way, including 17 for AIDS, eight for cancer, and one for leprosy. Pregnancy is scarcely a life-threatening condition in these times, but RU-486 was given the same priority treatment as drugs for cancer and AIDS.

If there were ever a case of political rather than medical approval of a drug, this is it. What's more, thanks to the special way the drug was approved, the manufacturers of the commercial version of RU-486 are specifically exempted from liability for any of its adverse effects.

And there can be adverse effects. In clinical trials, 8 percent of the women given the drug had incomplete abortions and 5 percent suffered "excessive bleeding.'' That's according to the New England Journal of Medicine. According to Jennifer Kabbany of The Weekly Standard, "In Iowa, Dr. Mark Louviere treated one clinical trial subject who had lost more than half her blood and was near death.''

Multiply these consequences by the tens of thousands as the drug becomes popular, and the danger should be obvious. No wonder Searle, the manufacturer of a popular version of the drug, officially warns doctors prescribing the pill that it can cause "maternal and fetal death, severe vaginal bleeding, shock'' and so on.

Whether you're for or against abortion, a bill to establish minimal standards for the use of RU-486 should be a routine piece of consumer protection. Instead, it inevitably produces a debate over a Woman's Right to Choose. No need to mention just what she might be choosing if RU-486 is administered without safeguards.

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