After a 12-year campaign led by the Feminist Majority Foundation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, a pill that provides an early method of abortion. FMF President Eleanor Smeal has been debating anti-choice leaders, including Olivia Gans of the National Right to Life Committee and Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America, on various news programs and networks, including Rivera Live, FOX morning news, and CNN.
“Too often, the opposition is exaggerating the risks of mifepristone and referring to misleading, inflammatory images of women watching body parts fall from their bodies,” Smeal said. Mifepristone has been approved only for use within the first seven weeks of pregnancy, during the embryonic stage when the developing fetus is typically the size of a grain of rice. Scientists say that, at this stage of development, the embryo measures three to five millimeters. The opposition has been misleading the public by using confusing standards of dating the pregnancy. They claim that the heart starts beating at 21 days–21 days after conception, an uncommon way to measure embryonic development. Standard medical practice measures pregnancy from the first day of the last menstrual period. By this accepted, scientific method, heart cells of an embryo begin pulsing at 5 weeks. A fetus does not have a fully formed heart until nine weeks into gestation. “The opposition’s distortions of the risks and consequences of mifepristone, which have proven to be minor both in clinical trials and in the experience of European women who have had access to the drug for over a decade, are merely scare tactics. Don’t be fooled by their false claims,” Smeal added.
Anti-choice advocates have argued that mifepristone is not “medicine” because it does not “help people.” However, mifepristone shows promise as a treatment for certain progrestin-dependent tumors, such as some forms of uterine cancer and brain cancer. In addition, its use as a method of early abortion will have a profound impact on the lives of women. As anti-choice leaders continue to call mifepristone “dangerous,” medical clinical trials and the experience of hundreds of thousands of women show, as the FDA concluded, that mifepristone is safe and effective. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, issued a press release yesterday stating that mifepristone is safe and effective, calling the FDA’s approval of the drug “long overdue.”
Abortion opponents are stressing presidential politics in the wake of the FDA’s decision, saying the battle over mifepristone is not over, and pointing out that Republican candidate George W. Bush is staunchly anti-abortion and against FDA approval, while Vice President Al Gore strongly supports a woman’s right to choose and spoke out for FDA approval.