A lustful world with its unrestrained and immoral sexual activity creates a demand for abortion as the back-up for failed contraception. Any method of abortion which can streamline the process, make it easier to access and perform, sanitize it without confronting the stark reality of a murdered child, will prove to be popular and so it has been with RU486: the so-called “abortion pill”.
Of course, the barbaric practice of abortion is not new and dates back to ancient times and the Roman Empire, in which Christianity was born, practised not only abortion but infanticide on a wide scale.1 But Christianity with its strict prohibition of the taking of innocent human life and abortion and infanticide particularly2, gradually created a Christian civilisation and for many centuries publically stamped out these infamous practices in Western society. Now, however, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen once famously commented, we are at the end of Christendom but not the end of Christianity, and these despicable practices and crimes against humanity have not only sprung up again, but now, in today’s world, which prides itself as “modern”, have once again regained legal permission just as before in the ancient pagan Roman world. As St Peter says: “The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.”3
Mifepristone or RU486, as it is popularly known, is a widely-used abortifacient drug used to produce a “chemical” or “medical”, as opposed to “surgical”, abortion in the first few months of pregnancy. Recently, The Australian newspaper reported that “RU486 could be widely available from GPs in most states within months, following what is understood to be an application by a drug company to market it in Australia for the first time.”4
RU486 was developed in 1980 by chemist, Georges Teutsch for Roussel-Uclaf, a large French pharmaceutical company. The drug itself was a steroid blocking agent5 but it was also found to block progesterone receptors. By 1982, Roussel-Uclaf had successfully tested it in Switzerland as a medical abortion drug. After worldwide clinical trials on 20,000 women, in which RU486 was combined with misoprostol (a prostaglandin-like drug), France became the first country in the world to approve its use for medical abortion in September, 1988.
Interestingly enough, on “October 21, 1988, in response to antiabortion protests and concerns of majority owner Hoechst AG of Germany, Roussel-Uclaf decided to stop distribution of RU486, which they announced on October 26, 1988. Two days later, the French government ordered Roussel-Uclaf to distribute RU486 in the interests of public health(!). The French Health Minister explained: “I could not permit the abortion debate to deprive women of a product that represents medical progress.”6 From the moment Government approval for the drug was granted, RU486 became the moral property of women, not just the property of a drug company.”7
“Nearly all women using mifepristone experienced abdominal pain, uterine cramping, and vaginal bleeding or spotting…. Other less common side effects included nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dizziness, fatigue, and fever…”8 and very rarely pelvic inflammatory disease. “Excessive bleeding and incomplete termination of a pregnancy require further intervention by a doctor (e.g. surgical abortion)”9 and between 1 in 12 to 1 in 22 women in clinical trials required surgical intervention.10 One in about 4500 required blood transfusions and one in about 2500 required non-lethal hospitalisations.11 There is a small recorded death rate in the USA of almost 1 per 100,00012 with just over half directly related to use of the drugs.13 Unlike many of the other side-effects, death of the mother is not reversible and adds to the tragedy of the aborted innocent baby.
Mechanism of Action
At higher doses RU486 blocks the action of natural progesterone which causes the lining of the pregnant mother’s womb to breakdown. It also causes softening of her cervix and cervical dilatation. The developing embryo detaches from the womb with its tissue coverings which results in a decrease of the pregnancy hormone HCG. The drop in HCG leads to the decreased production of progesterone by the corpus luteum, a hormone producing gland which develops in the ovary after the egg is released. In a normal period, the drop in progesterone causes the shedding of the lining of the womb. In this case, the drop in progesterone causes the miscarriage of the fetal human-being.
Currently, RU486 is used as a drug with misoprostol, to bring on the abortion of a fetal human-being up to 7-9 weeks old but there is use up to 13-24 weeks of gestation. The effectiveness of killing the baby has been found to be between 92-99% effective, with a surgical abortion offered as a back up for “failure”. With some notable exceptions like Ireland and Poland, RU486 is now available throughout many parts of the world with varying degrees of accessibility.
In France, the number of medically- induced abortions by RU486 has continued to increase since its approval and by 2007 almost 50% of all abortions were medical.14 In the USA, medical abortions, of which RU486 accounts for more than 90%, are thought to be around 17% of all abortions. In England and Wales the percentage of all abortions that are medical has increased every year for the past 14 years (from 5% in 1995 to 40% in 2009) and has more than doubled in the last five years. Worse is in Scotland where the percentage of all abortions that are medical has increased to 69.9% in 2009.
RU486 was banned in Australia in 1996,largely through the efforts of the great pro-life Senator, Brian Harradine of Tasmania. However, after much debate in the Australian media and amongst politicians and with the help of a well-organised pro- abortion lobby led by Reproductive Choice Australia, a Private Member’s Bill was passed in Federal Parliament in 2005 transferring the power of approval of RU486 from the Federal Health Minister to the Therapeutic Goods Authority.15 The usual Labor suspects voted in favour of lifting the ban. However many Liberal members also supported the bill and it was easily passed.16
Now legal, RU486 is regularly used to kill embryonic human beings in several specialized abortion clinics throughout Australia,17 the biggest being Marie Stopes International Australia, but doctors must first apply to the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) for ‘Authorised Prescriber’ status to use RU48618 on private patients “with a life threatening or an otherwise serious condition.”19 However, as mentioned above, a pharmaceutical company has recently applied for permission to supply the drug and if “…approved, GPs in most states would be free to prescribe the drug to women for the purpose of inducing an abortion of a fetus up to nine weeks.” The company wishes to remain anonymous for fear that publicity might jeopardize the success of its application to the TGA.20
In Australia, there could be as many as 73,000 abortions per year21 which would mean at least one out of every 5 pregnancies ends in an abortion.22 The majority of abortions are still surgical and not medical and therefore not using RU486. For “there is still not a great enthusiasm in the Australian medical profession to apply for ‘Authorised Prescriber’ status to use RU486. The prohibitive cost of $150,000 is a huge financial disincentive and, unsurprisingly, no Australian doctor has applied for one.”23 However, the number of medical abortions will increase dramatically as has happened overseas, if the TGA grants approval to the unnamed drug company to freely market the drug in Australia because then any doctor will simply be able to prescribe the drug on request for abortion.
When society as a whole regains its moral conscience, history will condemn our times for its hypocrisy, for while we were so harsh in judging, as we should be, gross human rights’ violations such as the Holocaust, and gave more support to the plight of endangered species and the protection of baby animals, we refused to recognise the humanity and human rights of the most defenceless of all human-beings and returned to one of the most shameful and horrifying practices of the ancient pagan world and justifying it with the creation of a fictional human right: a woman’s right to choose to kill the child in her womb.
The abortifacient drug RU486 will be seen as a further development in the decay of a decadent society in the out of control spiral of the culture of death and an attempt to sanitize and simplify the process of getting rid of the consequences of irresponsible sexual activity: the innocent pre-born human person. While legal in Australia, RU486 prescription is mainly confined to specialised abortion clinics but a drug company is in the process of marketing the drug in Australia with the backing of the pro-abortion choice lobby which would make RU486 more accessible through doctors as it is in many other countries, whose proportion of medical abortions continues to rise with its use. Interestingly enough, the pro-abortion choice lobby laments that to date few doctors show enthusiasm for prescribing it here in Australia and there seems to be a dwindling pool of doctors, especially young doctors, willing to be involved in the practice of abortion at all.24 We hope and pray that even if approval to market the drug is given, most doctors will still continue to refuse to prescribe RU486 and that the dwindling pool of doctors willing to be involved in the practice of abortion will eventually dry up all together.
I will end with this quote from Blessed Pope John Paul II, “Let us therefore discover anew the humility and the courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceit: the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil of practices and laws which are hostile to life. May this same power turn their hearts to resolutions and goals inspired by the civilization of life and love.”25
1 The Catholic Catechism, 1977, Fr John Hardon
2 Didache, II, 2 quoted by Fr Hardon, ibid
3 2 St Peter: 2:22 RSV
4 The Australian; 1/9/2011
5 glucocorticoid receptor antagonist
6 Cf 2 St Peter, 2:22
7 Wikipedia: RU486 article as of 24/9/11
15 As an aside the pro-choice lobby is very clever in its use of propaganda and sloganeering and paints the pro-life opposition as “anti-choice”. Perhaps the pro-life movement should return the favour and label abortion supporters: “anti-life” or “pro-death” or “pro- abortion choice”.
16 I continue to puzzle how publically committed Christians can square their conscience with the support of Bills like these.
17 Cf Wikopaedia article on RU486
18 Cf Better Health Channel article on RU486
19 http://newmatilda.com/2010/10/22/its-legal-why- ru486-hard-to-get internet article
20 The Australian: 1/9/11
21 Cf Research Brief no. 9 2004–05; How many abortions are there in Australia? A discussion of abortion statistics, their limitations, and options for improved statistical collection Pratt, Biggs and Buckmaster; Social Policy Section; 14 February 2005
22 There were 291,800 registered births in the 12 months to March 2011; Telegraph 1/10/11 quoting figures released from the ABS.
23 http://newmatilda.com/2010/10/22/its-legal-why- ru486-hard-to-get internet article
24 http://newmatilda.com/2010/10/22/its-legal-why- ru486-hard-to-get internet article
25 Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 100