RU-486: A Risk to Body and Soul
“Worst of all, approving chemical abortion will further numb our
consciences to the violence of abortion and the taking of innocent
human life.” So noted Gail Quinn, executive director of the Secretariat
of the Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-life Activities, commenting
on the September 28, 2000, decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) to approve the abortion pill mifepristone (Mifiprex or RU-486)
for use in the United States.
RU-486 was developed in the 1980s by the French drug company Roussel
Uclaf (hence the RU name) for the express purpose of killing unborn
children. RU-486 works by causing the uterus to shed its lining, dislodging
the embryo. Alone, it has a low success rate—unless used with misoprostol,
a powerful prostaglandin drug which induces uterine contractions to
expel the now-dead baby.
Danco Laboratories, LLC, is the U.S. company licensed to market
and distribute mifepristone. The drug may actually be made in China.
The Chicago-area pharmaceutical company Searle, which manufactures
misoprostol under the trade name of Cytotec for treatment of gastric
ulcers, strenuously objects to its use in abortions. An open letter
from Searle to health-care providers warns that in pregnant women
Cytotec can cause maternal as well as fetal death, bleeding, amniotic
fluid embolism, retained placenta and shock, among other “adverse
That should have been enough to give the FDA pause.
Last June the FDA had
proposed making mifepristone available only to licensed physicians
trained in surgical abortion, certified in ultrasonography and connected
to a hospital no more than one hour away from their office. Also,
on-site observation of a patient after taking misoprostol is the nearly
standard practice followed in other countries using the drug combination.
But by the time the
FDA approved the drug in September, these modest precautions were
relaxed. Now in the United States, doctors prescribing mifepristone
need only to sign an agreement with the drug’s distributor that they
will assess pregnancy duration accurately, diagnose tubal pregnancy,
and provide surgical intervention or have a referral arrangement with
an abortion provider. Additionally, the doctors must see patients
14 days later and report any adverse events.
RU-486 “failure” rates
increase dramatically when the fetus is more than 49 days old. Incomplete
abortions can result in infection, sterility and maternal death. Many
women in the United States do not return to abortion clinics now for
Legalized abortion was
pitched to the American public as a way to “take abortion out of the
back rooms and make it safe.” RU-486, however, does not achieve even
Simple or Convenient
Yet, for some reason,
the pro-choice lobby badly wanted RU-486 in its arsenal of abortion
options. Taking an abortion pill sounds as if it might be an easy
and convenient way to get rid of an unwanted child.
“Many have misleadingly
promoted mifepristone as a panacea. In reality, chemical abortion
is an intense, 3-15-day regimen involving multiple office visits and
a combination of drugs with the possibility of life-threatening complications,”
Quinn pointed out.
Perhaps not as gruesome
as surgical abortion, RU-486 is still taking a human life. Instead
of producing a guilt-free abortion, RU-486 actually may force mothers
to confront what they are doing—as they themselves may have to see
and dispose of the dead fetus.
“What was once seen
as an act of desperation—the killing of one’s own child—is now fiercely
defended as a good and promoted as a right,” said the U.S. bishops
in their 1997 statement Light and Shadows: Our Nation 25 Years
After Roe v. Wade.
The bishops went on
to say: “Even worse, a deadly blindness has come over our land, preventing
many persons of goodwill from recognizing the right of innocent human
lives to respect, acceptance and help. Claims of privacy and an ethic
of unlimited individualism have been used to undermine government’s
responsibility to protect life. Legalized violence has spread through
our society like a cancer. The powerless of all ages are threatened.”
So what’s to be done?
At minimum, we can push for mifepristone’s recall. Short of that,
we can demand close monitoring of its use.
At the same time, we
political pressure like the March for Life in January.
Support the work of
pregnancy centers which offer pro-life counseling.
Reach out on a personal
level to pregnant women in need of help.
Realize the suffering
of women who have had abortions and direct them to post-abortion
healing programs like Project Rachel (phone 1-800-593-2273).
And the most radical—in
the sense of getting at the root—of all the pro-life efforts we can
make is to show respect for life in our own homes.
The bishops say: “Catholic
families should be living symbols of our conviction that life is always,
always a gift from God. Teach your children to respect human life
from conception to natural death.”
Only if that basic value
of life is learned through real-life experience will surgical or drug-induced
abortions ever be totally eliminated.B.B.