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Reactions of pro-life and pro-choice groups:

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Reaction by Pro-Life Groups:

Pro-life groups and individuals generally believe that life (in the form of an ovum and sperm) become a human person at the instant of conception. Thus, they regard RU486 as a medication that murders a human child. The pill has thus been universally condemned by pro-life groups.

bulletSome refer to it as the "French death pill.'
bulletAn editorial in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, which is thought to have reflected the beliefs of Pope John Paul II, referred to RU-486 as the "pill of Cain: the monster that cynically kills its brothers.'' 1
bulletGail Quinn, executive director of the Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, said: The FDA’s approval of the abortion pill Mifepristone is the latest in a series of capitulations to abortion advocates … approving chemical abortion will further numb our consciences to the violence of abortion and the taking of innocent human life." 2
bulletCardinal Francis George of Chicago said, "It’s a pill that brings death. That’s strange medicine." 3
bulletThe bishops' conference in the Philippines stated that any woman taking the "abortion drug" would be "ipso facto excommunicated. It does not have to be announced any more. It is automatic." 4

One of the reasons for their strong opposition to RU-486 is that it has the potential to make abortions more generally available. It has become available in untold thousands of doctor's offices. No longer are abortion services limited to the relatively few urban clinics and hospitals where the procedure is now conducted. Rural residents have convenient access to abortions for the first time. Pro-life groups are no longer able to picket all of the locations where abortions were performed. 

The Family Research Council described the clinical trials of RU-486 as "experimenting on 2100 pregnant American women." The New Jersey Right to Life organization published an essay on their web site which says, in part:

"For the most part, RU-486 is a relatively untested drug...To support the drug in this country would be irresponsible on our part. The US public does not favor most abortions and they support the harmful physical and emotional effects of the RU-486 drug even less." 5

Author's note: It is difficult to support these assertions. This pill has been previously tested extensively in Europe. It has been routinely used in France and China since 1989, and in the UK and Sweden since the early 1990's.There is considerable public support for very early abortions.

Judy Brown, spokesperson for the American Life League in Stafford, VA commented:

"It is a clinical study that is testing a chemical to destroy a child in the womb. This should be astounding to people and society - that we are willing to test a pill to kill children." 6

Christopher Slattery, of the Legal Center for the Defense of Life in New York NY commented:

"There's a chance women will see this as an easier, less expensive, and less physically traumatic abortion, and may be attracted to it...I'm worried that we're going to turn more health-care practitioners into killers...Any time you turn the heart and soul of an individual, it's hard to get them back. They're doing the Devil's work, and it's going to be hard to win them to the cause of life.''

Martha Kleder, staff writer for Focus on the Family wrote an essay about RU-486 in early 2000-JAN at the time that Rhode Island became the final state to approve the use of prescription drugs for abortion. She quoted some pro-life leaders:


Rev. Joseph Howard, of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission who said:

"What they essentially do is they prevent progesterone from binding and starve the fetus to death, because it cannot live without an adequate level of progesterone."

Author's note: Actually, FDA regulations require that RU-486 only be taken up to about 7 weeks after conception, at a time when the products of conception are called an embryo, not a fetus. Howard's description is somewhat deceptive. The phrase "starve the fetus to death" would imply to many readers that the embryo would suffer pain as it experienced a lingering, agonizing death. This is not true. An embryo has no central nervous system, no developed brain, and is unable to feel hunger or any other form of pain.

bulletSteve Sanborn, spokesperson for the American Life League was critical of RU-486. He said: "Oftentimes, women will be expelling their own children in their own living room or their own bathroom and sitting there faced with that baby. I can't imagine what kind of 'convenience' that's going to be for them." 7

The Christian Medical Association and Concerned Women For America have submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration. It called for an immediate halt to the use of RU-486.

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Reaction by Pro-Choice groups:

These groups appear to be heavily in favor of the widespread use of RU-486:

bulletAbortions with a RU-486/misoprostol can be done very soon after conception. Much of the public feel that "later abortions are morally more complex than early abortions." The embryo can be removed before it develops any human features. But woman has to wait before having a conventional surgical abortion until about 6 or 7 weeks gestation. By that time, the embryo has almost lost its tail. The face is mammalian but somewhat pig-like. By 8 weeks, the embryo's face resembles that of a primate but is not fully human in appearance. 8
bulletRU-486 would be of particular benefit in developing countries, where a lack of physician and clinics makes a conventional abortion dangerous. "The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 20 million abortions are performed illegally or unsafely each year worldwide, causing 100,000 or more deaths." Many of those lives could be saved with RU-486, because it requires no surgery, except in unusual circumstances. 9
bulletIn North America, it would make abortion much more private; it would become an arrangement between a woman and her personal doctor. Rural women could obtain abortions from their physician instead of traveling long distances to and from an urban clinic.
bulletWomen who take RU-486 may not have to face harassment from clinic protestors.
bulletMany women consider a medical abortion to be far less invasive than a surgical abortion. "Studies showed that many women preferred it over other methods." 9

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "The Church and Abortion," In Catholic Circles, 2000-SEP/OCT, at: http://www.catholicsforchoice.org/
  2. "Bishops' conference official comments on approval of abortion pill," National Conference of Catholic Bishops, news release, 2000-SEP-28.
  3.  Jim Ritter, "Cardinal denounces RU-486," Chicago Sun-Times, 2000-OCT-30.
  4. "Opposition mounts in the Philippines against RU-486," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2000-OCT-05.
  5. Steve Ertelt, "The Dangers of RU-486," available at: http://www.prolife.org/ultimate/upl5.html
  6. L.M.Krieger "RU-486 abortion pill still not widely available in the U.S." San Francisco Examiner, 1998-JAN-27
  7. American Life League's web site is at: http://www.all.org/. Sanborn's statement is no longer online.
  8. Stages of Fetal Development, an essay on this Web site.
  9. Aaron Zitner, "The RU-486 Saga," The Boston Globe, 1997-NOV-23

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Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Facts > RU-486 > here

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Copyright © 1997 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2020-AUG-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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