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The Deafening Silence about RU-486

David Alan Black

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2000 elections, it’s that the pro-life movement has been hoodwinked by the Republican Establishment. Essentially, it has been told to live with the hope, but not with the promise, that the Republican leadership will remain true to a pro-life platform that President Bush now treats like an embarrassment.

Although Mr. Bush has made it clear that he is open to appointing pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, his denial of a litmus test for justices shows that he is openly appealing to pro-abortion Republicans. Former First Lady Barbara Bush has even gone so far as to say that right to life should not even be an issue in presidential campaigns.

Now that it is clear that the Republican Party has marginalized the cause of life, one wonders if anyone will ever speak out against the so-called abortion pill, RU-486. The silence from pro-life conservatives about this new drug is deafening.

Just what is RU-486? According to the National Right to Life organization, RU-486 is a chemical compound that is taken in pill form and can induce abortion in women up to nine weeks pregnant. It gets its name from the French company Roussel Uclaf, which first developed the pill in 1980. The “486” designation is the shortened version of the original “38486” compound number the pill was first assigned in the Roussel Uclaf laboratory.

During the time that RU-486 is operative, the baby is developing rapidly. At about the fifth week of pregnancy (measured from a woman’s last menstrual period) a mother first begins to suspect she is pregnant, so this is about the earliest that the chemical is used. At this point the child is about three weeks old and approximately 1/10 of an inch long. The baby’s nervous system has begun to form and his or her heart is likely to have already begun its first beats. The child’s heart will be beating strongly and steadily by the time he or she is just three and a half weeks old.

The effectiveness of the RU-486 method begins to decline after 49 days. By that time, the baby will be five weeks old and his or her face, arms, and legs will be distinguishable. Before the end of the ninth week of pregnancy (seven weeks for the baby) — the outer extreme of the pill’s effectiveness—the child’s ears, fingers, and toes will have formed and he or she will be nearly an inch tall.

The FDA has mandated that the drug be made available to women who are no more than 49 days pregnant. Women who take the drug must sign a form indicating they are aware of the risks associated with RU-486 for them and their baby and promising to return for additional visits on day three (to take prostaglandin) and about day 14 (to determine whether or not the abortion has taken place).

Doctors prescribing RU-486 are required to date pregnancies and diagnose ectopics. They also must be able to provide surgical intervention in situations where there are incomplete abortions or severe bleeding, or to have in place arrangements for patients to obtain such services from other physicians. The prescriber must also “assure patient access to medical facilities equipped to provide blood transfusion and resuscitation, if necessary.”

Why is RU-486 so dangerous? For at least two reasons. First of all, in an interesting trend reversal, abortion has become increasingly unpopular with doctors, women, and the American public. Ostracized by the medical community and worn out by thousands of abortions, many doctors are dropping abortion from their practice and fewer doctors are taking their places. Increasing numbers of doctors see abortion as the taking of human life and something that should be limited. RU-486 gives abortion supporters a chance to change the image of abortion, making it seem as innocent as taking a vitamin pill and concentrating on smaller, less developed babies whose destruction seems an easier political sell. That the reality is still the destruction of an innocent human life is of little consequence to abortion’s promoters as long as their false perception holds.

In the second place, RU-486 has the potential to relocate abortion services from urban clinics where the procedure is now conducted. It could become available in untold thousands of doctor’s offices. Rural residents could have convenient access to abortions for the first time. Pro-life groups would no longer be able to picket locations where abortions were performed. If RU-486 becomes readily available, it will increase the number of abortions even beyond the present 1.5 million per year. Abortion supporters hope that many physicians who currently do not perform abortions will use RU-486. And as the number of abortion doctors increases, the number of abortions will also rise.

That children are being horribly and painfully destroyed each day is contrary to the truth of God’s Word about the sanctity of human life. Life is precious to God at all stages of development and under all conditions.

It is time for all who value life to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. It is irresponsible to be silent about RU-486 just because the issue of abortion is divisive and controversial. Silence is not a neutral position. Our silence says to those unborn children that we really don’t care that they are murdered in unspeakably horrible ways.

January 31, 2003

David Alan Black is the editor of

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