How many times will women be used as guinea pigs? We should have learned some lessons from the Dalkon Shield, DES and maybe even breast implants.
Abortion advocates keep telling American women that RU-486 is "safe and effective" - and both foes and supporters of abortion argue that the abortion procedure is "easy." Yet all these claims are open to serious question.
Just how safe is the RU-486 abortion? It has killed at least one woman in France. In that case, the young woman was dead within an hour after receiving the prostaglandin injection that is the final stage of the four-step RU-486 regime. Abortion advocates keep claiming that RU-486 itself didn't kill her; it was the prostaglandin in the fourth step. That may be true, but it's not particularly relevant. RU-486 abortions without prostaglandin just don't happen.
As a result of that death, smokers and women over age 34 may not take RU-486 in France. Additionally, women are advised not to take the drug if they have any of the following very common conditions: high blood pressure, anemia, gynecologic infections and fibroids.
However, we don't really know just how dangerous RU-486 is. In one of the major studies of women using the drug, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 75 of the 2,115 women in the study were not followed after receiving the final injection. Did any of them suffer severe, or fatal complications? We simply don't know.
The record does show that RU-486 has also been responsible for two nonfatal heart attacks. And according to Roussel's own data, out of 950 women studied, 270 required narcotics for intense pain. Seven required blood transfusions.
Janice Raymond, associate director of the MlT-based Institute on Women and Technology--and a bona-fide abortion supporter--is opposing the drug after a through review of the scientific literature on RU-486.
So, at best, the jury is still out on "safe.'' Is the RU-486 regime "effective"? To a degree. But in the one out of 20 times that the unborn child is not killed, its deformities are so severe that Roussel-Uclaf, fearing litigation, requires women to sign an agreement to a surgical abortion. What if a woman changes her mind after taking the first dose of RU-486? Will she be forced, Chinese-style, into a surgical abortion?
The RU-486/prostaglandin regime effectively completes an abortion through inducing the contractions and hemorrhage that expel the unborn child. Supporters of the drug rhapsodize about the increased "privacy" of "taking the pill at home." But they are glossing over the reality that women are administered the drug in a clinic and then sent home to wait as the bleeding begins. The [former] president of Roussel Uclaf, Edouard Sakiz, says it is "an appalling psychological ordeal." In Europe there are support groups for women who have endured the procedure.
This raises the issue of informed consent. When a woman comes to participate in the field trials, having heard in the media that RU-486 is easy, will she be told about the side effects and that MlT's Ms. Raymond has questioned the impact of RU-486 on her health? Will she know what she is getting into before it is too late?
It is very troubling that the groups that will be administering an experimental abortion drug with serious potential side effects are the same ones that have demonstrated their opposition to woman's right to know all the information about surgical abortion. Pro-abortion groups have fought informed consent laws all the way to the Supreme Court.
And what about parental consent? Will 14-year-old girls be given RU-486 arid sent home to hemorrhage without their parents' knowing anything about it? All too often, parents are not informed of their daughters' surgical abortions.
Surgical abortion is legal and accessible in the U.S. And, contrary to the hyperbolic pro-abortion rhetoric, RU-486 -- with its mandatory four doctor visits-- is not easier and more private than surgical abortion. It's odd that the same people who say that a 24-hour wait to see a doctor for a surgical abortion is absolutely unacceptable would be promoting chemical abortion, which in its current state is a much more drawn out procedure. Shouldn't we be asking why this questionable drug is so important to them? And to the president?
Quick. Name something the president has done to address breast cancer, a disease that attacks one out of nine women. Name just one other drug for which the president has personally lobbied. What's going on here? Is it women's rights and women's health the president is concerned about or just abortion at any cost?
Ms. Yoest is an adjunct fellow with the Family Research Council and a fellow in the department of government at the University of Virginia.