Mr. Senator, should I have a baby?
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The anti-abortion lobby was whipped into an activist frenzy when it was reported a while back that two more women died after using the so-called abortion pill* RU-486 to end their pregnancies. But last week, when RU-486 (also called Mifeprex) was rejected as a cause of death for one of the women, the Christian anti-abortion groups barely acknowledged the news.
The Chicago-Sun Times reported April 12 that:
Health officials said Monday they have ruled out the abortion pill RU-486 in one of two deaths in women who had taken the drug. The second remains under investigation.
The one death was unrelated to either abortion or use of the pill, the Food and Drug Administration said. The second woman showed symptoms of infection.
Four other women have died of a rare but deadly infection after undergoing pill-triggered abortions. In those four deaths, the women tested positive for Clostridium sordellii, a common but rarely fatal bacterium.
The anti-abortion groups that did respond to the news were skeptical and conspiratorial; Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family wondered publicly if the womanâ€™s death was being covered up somehow, presumably by rabid pro-choicers.
The fact is, RU-486 was not responsible for the death, and has still not been proved to be the cause of the five other deaths of the women. Of course, none of this has slowed the Christian rightâ€™s attack on the prescription drug.
Just yesterday, the Christian Coalition put out another call to its members to support legislation that would ban RU-486:
A group of conservative members of the U.S. House of Representatives has written House Majority Leader John Boehner a letter demanding a vote on a bill that would pull RU-486 from the market because of the health risks that it poses to womenâ€¦
The bill would withdraw FDA approval of the drug and send it back for review in light of the medical record. Christian Coalition will be working hard to push members of Congress on this issueâ€¦
Essentially, the bill seeks to override the FDA and allow elected politicians to make a huge medical decisions for all women. Personally, I wouldn't go to my Senator or Representative and ask them what birth control I should take, what kind of abortion is better, or whether or not they think I'm ready to have a kid. This attempt to ban RU-486 would do just that.
The proposed bill is just another disingenuous attempt by the far right to "protect" women, when in fact it is safer to take the dreaded RU-486 than it is to give birth. Iâ€™ve said it before and Iâ€™ll say it again: About 1 in about 5,890 women die in childbirth, while 1 in only 115,000 women have died after taking RU-486.
*Just as a note to readers who previously commented on the use of the term "abortion pill": RU-486/Mifiprex is considered a medical abortion. According to Planned Parenthood, RU-486 â€œblocks the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down, ending the pregnancy.â€ Afterward, another drug is taken to induce contractions and empty the uterus. RU-486 can be used up to 56 days after your last period, and itâ€™s only used if the woman is actually pregnant.
RU-486 should not be confused with emergency contraception pills, which are much different. Emergecy contraception must be taken fewer than 120 hours after unprotected sex. According to Planned Parenthood, emergency contraceptive pills, like Plan B, â€œprevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation or fertilization.â€
Maria Luisa Tucker is a staff writer at AlterNet and associate editor of the Columbia Journal of American Studies.