Abortion pill stirs controversy


abortion pill.jpg

Jaki Cavins

French biochemist Étienne-Émile Baulieu developed a chemical compound in 1980 that has the ability to terminate a pregnancy when placed in a pill form. This drug is now known as the abortion pill, oftentimes called RU-486. 

For women considering abortion, the idea of the drug might hold a strong sense of appeal when looking at its simple surface facts.

Taking a Food and Drug Administration approved pill seems more convenient, less painful and more discreet than going into an abortion clinic.

The pill is meant to be taken within the first eight weeks of pregnancy and the process can be done correctly in three easy steps, according to the Planned Parenthood website.

After consulting with a medical professional, the patient is first given antibiotics and mifepristone, the first part of the drug, which blocks the hormone progesterone and causes the lining of the uterus to break down.

Then 24 to 48 hours later, the patient takes misoprostol, which empties out the uterus. 

This causes extreme bleeding and blood clots for the individual taking it, and in most cases, the abortion is completed in five hours, but can last as long as a few days.

A follow-up with a medical professional and either an ultrasound or blood test is required two weeks later, completing the FDA approved three-step abortion pill process.

On paper, the drug seems like a good option compared to going to a clinic for a traditional abortion. The abortions are successful 97 out of 100 times, according to the Planned Parenthood website.

However, as with many things in life, especially drugs, there are negatives of the abortion pill that cannot be overlooked.

From misuse and the illegal sale of the drug to severe blood clots and even deaths of individuals who have taken it, RU-486 has raised a debate of whether it does more harm than good.

Since 2000, 14 women in the United States have reportedly died from complications from the pill, according to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, a pro-life organization. In many cases, it has been the cause of sepsis, a dangerous blood infection. 

Danger lies even in the chance that a pregnant woman could be given the pill against her own will. 

“There are boyfriends who find out their girlfriend is pregnant, order the drugs online, have them shipped and they will sprinkle them on their girlfriend’s food,” said Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life.

Several cases have been reported of this. A man in Florida changed the label of the abortion pill to one of a common antibiotic, giving it to his pregnant girlfriend and causing her to have a miscarriage, according to the West Palm Beach NBC affiliate station

Despite this, many believe RU-486 is a great medical achievement and stand by the effectiveness of the drug and its ability to provide women who want an abortion with a more “private” option.

The pill continues to be frequently used legally in the United States, and with so many underlaying risks, only time can determine the future status of the drug.

Many question whether the drug is morally any different than a regular abortion and those in favor of the drug believe the abortion aspect, not the idea of the pill itself, upset pro-life individuals.

“I think a lot of opponents of abortion like to say it’s just irresponsible women having casual sex who just don’t want to have a baby,” said David Andersen, assistant professor of political science. “The fact is a lot of times it is a woman’s health issue. Medical doctors will sometimes say abortion services are necessary.”

Others disagree, and some clinics such as the Women’s Choice Center in Iowa even offer a different view on the RU-486 pill. 

“There’s nothing really safe about it when women are given the pills without any medical supervision whatsoever,” said Vicki Tyler, executive director of the Women’s Choice Center. “I think that the medical abortion is more harmful than the surgical abortion. There are repercussions.”