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Restrictions kill abortion drug freedom

A WOMAN'S right to choose to have an abortion is a godsend. With abortion's legalization through Roe v. Wade, American women truly became citizens and gained freedom over their own bodies. The approval last week of the abortion drug RU-486 or mifepristone by the Food and Drug Administration expanded this freedom to give women not only control over their own bodies, but control over their own abortions.

The drug, which actually is incorporated into a two-step drug regimen, causes the ovaries to cease production of progesterone, which in turn causes the uterus to soften and the lining to shed. The embryo is then expelled through the use of another drug that causes the cervix to dilate and the uterus to contract. Sixty-five percent of women completely expel the embryo within 24 hours of taking the second pill. They can experience the physical and possible emotional trauma of having an abortion at home alone or with loved ones if they choose.

Despite the FDA's approval of the drug, conservative Capitol Hill legislators have threatened to rob women of the choice to have a drug-induced abortion. Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) announced that he would introduce legislation to restrict the distribution of RU-486 to women who need abortions.

Coburn's bill would only allow physicians licensed to handle complications resulting from an incomplete abortion or ectopic (tubal) pregnancy to use or distribute the drug. The physician using mifepristone would have to be trained and authorized by law to provide surgical abortions, and must have certification to perform ultrasound dating of pregnancy. In addition the bill would require that a registry of all drug providers be maintained by the government.

These proposed regulations of RU-486, under the guise of safety concerns, are nothing more than a way for conservative forces in Washington to impose a moral agenda on American women. Studies have shown that the availability of mifepristone in Europe has not increased the number of abortions, yet conservative leaders are convinced this will be the case in the U.S.

The Food and Drug Administration already has imposed regulations addressing the safety issues of RU-486. In its press release announcing the approval of the drug, the FDA said that only doctors who can accurately determine the duration of a patient's pregnancy could prescribe the drug. Also, only doctors who can provide surgical intervention or who have made plans for surgical intervention in the case of an incomplete abortion will have access to the drug.

Coburn's proposed bill makes these already tight restrictions more severe by eliminating all doctors who are not certified in performing abortions. These restrictions do not reinforce the safety concerns already addressed by the FDA. Instead, they make the drug difficult to obtain and pressure doctors into not prescribing mifepristone for women who don't want to have a traditional surgical abortion.

This drug allows women to have more control over a procedure that already has the potential to cause emotional and physical turmoil in their lives. Women can take mifepristone and then the follow-up prostaglandin pill at home with the support of husbands or loved ones. It also gives women the choice of taking the drug in private, eliminating the trip to a very public clinic. These clinics have become somewhat dangerous in recent years with the surge of protester violence.

And by performing the procedure at home, women have been very satisfied with the physical and emotional results. Since RU-486 testing began in 1994, over 10,000 women have had drug-induced abortions. Eighty-eight percent of those women thought that their abortions were very or moderately satisfactory, and 95 percent who used the drug in trials said they would recommend it to others ("For one woman, drug was the right choice," The Washington Post, Sept. 29).

The approval of RU-486 has been a long time coming in the U.S. It allows women to decide when and where they will choose to end a pregnancy - an extremely hard thing to do. This drug allows women to have an abortion without the fear and emotional pain of visiting a clinic and having a surgical procedure.

Conservative lawmakers have no right to take this privilege away from women. The FDA's years of testing and research, and the testimonial of thousands of women all over the world show that this drug is a medical accomplishment and a victory for female reproductive freedom.

(Erin Perucci is a Cavalier Daily Opinion editor.)

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