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Complications far-reaching for RU 486, pro-lifers say

WASHINGTON (BP)–While American testing of the abortion pill RU 486 proved nearly as effective as that performed in France, the complications for the parties involved are far-reaching, pro-life spokesmen said.
American trials showed the two-step, drug-induced method successfully ended in abortion for 92 percent of women in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, according to results released by the Population Council, the New York-based organization holding the United States patent to the abortion pill. The tests were performed on more than 2,100 women at 17 sites during 1994 and ’95 but released only recently. The use of the method in France has resulted in drug-induced abortion 95 percent of the time.
In the process, mifepristone, also known as RU 486, is used with a prostaglandin, misoprostol, to induce abortion normally in the first seven weeks. Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to release the baby, who usually suffocates or starves to death. Misoprostol, taken two days after mifepristone, causes the uterus to contract, expelling the child’s body.
Pro-life organizations have long fought against RU 486’s introduction into the United States, but the abortion drug continues to move toward widespread availability.
The Food and Drug Administration, acting despite protests from pro-lifers, declared RU 486 safe and effective in September 1996. The FDA is awaiting information on manufacturing before approving the drug, the Population Council reported. A spokesman for the Danco Group, a pharmaceutical company with the license to the drug, told the Associated Press it has found a manufacturer, according to a report in The Washington Post. The New York Times reported the search for a manufacturer has been an extremely difficult one.
According to the U.S. test results, the efficiency of the method declined after seven weeks. It was successful 83 percent of the time in the eighth week of pregnancy and 77 percent of the time in the ninth week.
Ninety-nine percent of women participating in the trials reported some adverse effects, with 20 percent suffering severe nausea and 10 percent severe vomiting. Twenty-nine percent received narcotic painkillers. Fifty-six women required surgery for excessive bleeding, and four participants had blood transfusions.
“The fact that RU 486 shows fewer complications for women than some might have thought does not diminish that some women will experience rather drastic complications, and certainly the complications for the unborn are lethal,” said Ben Mitchell, a Southern Baptist bioethics specialist. “This pill shouldn’t give us any peace of mind. In fact, it will increase the concern we have about abortion and the death of the unborn.
“The fact that the Population Council has had a difficult time finding a manufacturer is a testimony to not only the realization that this drug is little more than a death pill but it is also a testimony to the effectiveness of the pro-life movement and a growing sense among the public that abortion on demand is clearly wrong and methods of abortion like RU 486 will only increase the problem and not alter it.”
Another complication will be the psychological impact for women of seeing the baby they have aborted, a situation they usually do not confront with surgical abortion. The U.S. results showed 51 percent of women aborted after they left the clinic.
“For many women the psychological repercussions of aborting at home and seeing what they aborted could be long-term,” said Laura Echevarria, communications director for the National Right to Life Committee, in a written analysis. “Already society ignores the fact that many women suffer psychologically from surgical abortions — where women have an intentionally limited role in the actual abortion procedure. As a society, we are neither willing nor equipped to handle these truths.”
The continued search for more private and efficient methods of abortion while, at the same time, children shoot children and adults reflects a “major form of cultural schizophrenia,” Mitchell said.
“The irony of this situation is that on the one hand we are lamenting the death of our children by violence in schools and on the other hand we are looking for more efficient ways to kill children in the womb,” said Mitchell, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a consultant with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
RU 486 is legal in France, Great Britain and Sweden. About one-third of all abortions in France are drug-induced ones. In 1994, Roussel Uclaf, the French developer of RU 486, donated the U.S. patent to the Population Council.
The Population Council said it is interested in introducing the drug to developing countries. It has collaborated with colleagues in China, Cuba, India and Vietnam on tests of RU 486, the council reported.