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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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RU486: Abortion Drug Not Aspirin

Last month, an 18-year-old girl died of complications from taking the abortion pill RU486, marking the fifth death worldwide resulting from the use of the pill.

The victim, Holly Marie Patterson, received the pill from her local Planned Parenthood Clinic. Though she was 18, according to the organization's Web site, minors can obtain the pill in New York without parental notification.

Patterson's death has sparked further controversy over the safety of the pill, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in September of 2000. Critics fail to admit, however, that the pill may be safer than traditional abortions.

According to a CNN article, the laboratory that produces the pill estimates 200,000 women in the United States have used it since its invention in the 1980s in France. Over one million women worldwide have used the pill.

While critics argue that five deaths - two of which have been in the United States - are too many, especially when they result from taking a non-crucial drug, But the fact remains that women are going to get abortions if they feel they need them, and RU486 is still one of the safest ways to complete the procedure.

In 5 to 8 percent of cases, surgery is required after the two-part series of pills is administered to stop bleeding in patients. This might seem significant, but consider surgery in 100 percent of cases without the pill. Also, consider those who can't afford the procedure and instead opt to go to a non-professional to get the operation done. In 2000, the average cost of a surgical abortion averaged $372, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundation is an "independent philanthropy focusing on the major health care issues facing the nation," according to its Web site, which states that about 25 percent of all pregnancies in the United States end in abortion. Of these, approximately 97 percent are performed surgically. During the first six months of 2001, however, 72 percent of abortions were done using RU486.

It seems critics of the RU486 failed to note these statistics. The one valid point they do have, however, is the how the perception of abortion has changed with the introduction of the abortion pill.

Before RU486, abortion was perceived as a daunting experience and women were more careful with their sexual endeavors. With developments in emergency contraception and RU486, sex has become more casual - a sad testament to the rising rate of sexually transmitted diseases.

Still, this does not mean the pill should be illegal. In England, family planning groups are even urging government agencies to relax regulations regarding the pill. These groups argue that women should not have to return to the doctor's office to get the second dose of the medication, as they do under current laws.

This is further proof that the impact and procedure of abortion is being trivialized. With the process already simplified, women should be grateful, not lazy. Those who would rather avoid an abortion of any type would be wise to use protection, such as birth control.

The FDA recently okayed a new form of birth control called Seasonale, which not only prevents pregnancy, but limits women's periods to about four per year. According to CNN, of the 39 million American women who use birth control, about one quarter choose oral contraceptives.

The pill is made with the same hormones as the original pill, but is taken for longer periods without placebos. For example, 12 weeks of pills followed by one week of placebos, which allow a woman to have her period, whereas with traditional birth control there is a three-week-on, one-week-off cycle.

The pill is currently undergoing a clinical trial involving 1,400 women hoping to relieve themselves of the "cramps, mood swings and pain" associated with their monthly cycles, according to CNN.

Of course, the new pill has its critics. Some argue that there are medical reasons women should have their monthly period, including the excretion of excess iron, which if built up, could lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Despite these risks, Seasonale is just one option that women should consider before having to make other decisions. Even though RU486 is a beneficial breakthrough, women should not use it as a fallback plan. Regulations on the pill should not be eased, but deaths like Patterson's should serve as reminders for those who are irresponsible in their actions.



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