December 17th 2005

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Articles from this issue:

EDITORIAL: The death penalty and Van Tuong Nguyen

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Contenders for the Howard succession

CULTURE WARS: Fighting to defend civilisation

SCHOOLS: Truth and beauty to exchanged for 'relevance'

OPINION: Abortion drug victimises women

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Burma, ASEAN and selective breast-beating / Latham was right / Asia for the Australians / News item

FOREIGN DEBT: Greenspan issues warning over foreign debt

PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE Private funding 'more expensive'

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: Global significance of China-India relations

IRAQ WAR: Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction

ENVIRONMENT: Ensuring sustainable agriculture

TIMOR LESTE: 'Thanks for helping East Timor'

Compulsory voting a necessity (letter)

Disabled people at risk from euthanasia (letter)

ABC insults Australia's war dead (letter)

Low pay and joblessness (letter)

BOOKS: HOW MUMBO-JUMBO CONQUERED THE WORLD: A Short History of Modern Delusions, by Francis Wheen

BOOKS: FEMALE CHAUVINIST PIGS: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, by Ariel Levy

BOOKS: THE CASE FOR DEMOCRACY: The power of freedom to overcome tyranny and terror, by Natan Sharansky

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Abortion drug victimises women

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, December 17, 2005
The abortion pill RU-486 does not liberate women: it enslaves and victimises them, argues Peter Westmore.

Faced with insistent demands from feminists within the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, has decided to override the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, to bring on a parliamentary vote which is designed to legalise the use of the abortion drug, RU-486, in Australia.

(RU-486 has not been approved for use in Australia, following an agreement between Mr Howard and former Senator Brian Harradine in 1986, that RU-486 would not be authorised for use in Australia without the explicit approval of the Health Minister.)

The matter was back on the agenda within months of Senator Harradine's retirement on June 30 this year.

The history of RU-486 is intimately linked with the push, both here and overseas, for access to chemical abortions by pro-abortion bodies, such as the Family Planning Association in Australia, the US National Organization of Women, and various feminist organisations.

Safer abortions?

Their reasoning seems to be that they believe that women using RU-486 will not require surgical intervention, and therefore that the use of RU-486 will provide "cleaner" abortions.

This is a strange argument, as the pro-abortion lobby have consistently claimed that surgical abortion is a simple and safe procedure - safer, they say, than continuing with pregnancy.

In fact, the use of RU-486 is fraught with difficulty.

Chemical abortion is a complicated process, requiring first the administration of RU-486 in a medical clinic to induce the death of the unborn child; then later, a powerful synthetic hormone is administered to expel the foetal body from the woman.

Normally, this latter process will take place in the woman's workplace or home, where she is away from expert medical care. She also has the physical and psychological problem of dealing with the expulsion of the dead body.

While the cause of RU-486 is being championed by feminists in the Liberal Party, some feminists have expressed their dismay at the proposal to permit use of RU-486. Associate professor in women's studies at Deakin University, Dr Renate Klein, who supports legalised abortion, wrote that abortions with the RU-486 pill are potentially unsafe, unpredictable and involve a risky chemical "cocktail".

She told MPs that she was appalled at the misinformation given by RU-486 supporters claiming it to be a simple procedure when it required a second powerful drug, prostaglandin, to ensure expulsion of the foetus.

In 2002, Germaine Greer was asked to speak at a gynaecologists and obstetricians conference, "Best for Women", to help promote RU-486. Instead, she shocked her audience by opposing it.

She described abortion as being like amputation. "Of course we need access to amputation," she said, "but we need even more to make sure that as few people are in a situation where they need amputations as possible."

Speaking of RU-486, she said that "these are violently active chemicals and they have violent reactions on the organism", and went on to ask, "What is it that's brought us to a situation where a woman who is pregnant doesn't want to be?", and what is the "situation in which a woman would undergo that kind of assault?"

Because RU-486 takes effect when a woman is away from immediate medical care, its immediate medical side-effects are cause for real concern. In the United States, where RU-486 has been legal since 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reported a range of possible side-effects.

Although reporting of adverse effects is not mandatory, the FDA has received reports of serious bacterial infection, bleeding, ectopic pregnancies that have ruptured, and, in a few cases, death.

The FDA's patient information sheet on RU-486 says that five to eight out of 100 women will need a surgical procedure to end the pregnancy or to stop the bleeding; that women need to be able to access emergency medical help in the two weeks after taking the drug; and that women can expect bleeding for an average of 9-16 days, which may last up to 30 days.

Interestingly, at the very time that the Australian Government is bowing to pressure from within the Liberal Party to legalise RU-486, the New York Times (November 23, 2005) reported that the US FDA is shortly to convene a meeting to discuss the medical problems with the drug.

The use of the abortion drug, like abortion itself, is a symptom of a coarsening of society and involves the victimisation of women who are wrongly seen as responsible for pregnancy.

In the case of women who have become pregnant unexpectedly, the availability of the supposedly harmless RU-486 will inevitably increase pressure on them to have an abortion - pressure that is usually applied by parents, boyfriends or others.

At a time when a vulnerable woman needs as much support as possible, it compounds the pressure on her, making it even more likely that she will suffer severe and prolonged psychological distress following an abortion.

The abortion pill does not liberate women: it enslaves and victimises them, at the same time that it provides a new means to kill the most vulnerable members of the human race.

  • Peter Westmore

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