Ethics of the Abortion Drug Ru-486 Term Paper

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Abortion: Ethical and Political Issues of RU 486

Abortion is a totally unacceptable, cruel and unethical practice and should be considered illegal except under some special cases and medical circumstances that indicate a danger to the mother. Our judicial system must consider the ethical and moral aspects of abortion as an intrinsic part of the problem when approaching this social issue. Even from the practical prospective the abortion pill RU486 has not been a breakthrough and instead of making abortion a private and safe method it has only increased the physical discomfort and the psychological ordeal for the woman.

Abortion is the one of the most debated social issues of this century. The controversy as to the right that man has over the life of a baby in the fetus and in controlling its entry into the world is a much-debated topic. Abortion is nothing but putting an end to the life of the baby by killing it in the womb itself. This social issue assumes all the more importance given the fact that an astounding 1.7 million people have abortions every year in the United States alone. Abortion, which was initially indicated as a life saving procedure, is today misused to suit the whims and fancies of the people. Let us briefly discuss the abortion procedures before going into the ethical and political aspects of RU 486, the latest abortion pill.

Abortion Options

There are both surgical and non-surgical methods of abortion. The Non-surgical abortions are also known as 'Medical abortions'. Usually non-surgical abortions are carried out in within the first seven weeks of the first three months of pregnancy. (trimester). Non-surgical abortion can be effected using either the pill or the liquid form. Chief among the non-surgical methods includes the abortion pill RU486. Also known as Mifeprex, RU486 stops the growth of the baby by inhibiting the release of the growth hormone called Progesterone, which is very essential for the growth of the fetus. Usually RU486 is used in conjunction with another drug called Misoprostol. Misoprostol stimulates the uterine muscles and increases the contractions. In this way the fetal matter is expelled from the body. This non-surgical procedure is considered to be effective in 95% of the cases and in the 5% where it fails surgical methods are used as a follow up to complete the abortion process.

Moral Justification for Abortion

Though as human beings we are under the obligation to save the precious life of the baby there are circumstances in which abortion can be justified. We come to a strong sense of understanding that in cases of women who were victimized abortion can be a rightful solution. In these cases the women in fact have a right for aborting rather than undergoing the burden of having to live up with the trauma of the horrible incident. This is especially so because she had no real control over her pregnancy and it was not a matter of choice.

Nonsurgical Abortion (Working Mechanism of RU 486)

Before we delve in depth about the ethical issues pertaining to the use of the abortion pill it is essential that we discern a fine point of distinction between the action of contraceptives and the abortion pill RU 486. Unlike contraceptives, which are taken immediately after an intercourse, and before the newly conceived baby attaches itself to the uterine wall, RU 486 is an abortion pill that is used within 7 weeks of the first trimester. This means that by this time the fetus is sufficiently developed with a working heart and brain.

Mifepristone is in fact designed to act in the same way as progesterone, the hormone that is responsible for the fetal growth. Because of this chemical and structural resemblance RU 486 attaches itself to the receptor sites of the fetus without triggering the signals for the same. This leads the body to misinterpret it for a drop in progesterone level (a sign that the woman is not pregnant) and so it continues with the normal menstrual cycle leading to cutting off of the nutrition and the expelling of the fetus. RU 486 is very effective in aborting the fetus and has a success rate of more than 85%. The usual medical procedure is to supplement RU 486 with a dose of Misoprostol (a prostaglandin) two days after the intake of Mifepristone. Misoprostol is a drug, which increases the contraction of the uterine muscles thus aiding in the successful expulsion of the dead fetal matter. [Vital Signs, Nov 2000]

The Legal Battle -Row Vs Wade (The landmark Case)

Row Vs Wade was an important landmark in American legal history. It all happened when Norma McCorvey, (under the name of Jane Roe) a 25-year-old woman challenged the Texas laws which regarded abortion as criminal. McCovery was denied an abortion in 1969 and was forced to give birth to her third child. (Which she attributed to be a consequence of rape and later claimed to be a false testimony). But in her second appeal in 1973 her case was taken by Sarah Weddington, an attorney from Dallas. This time they successfully argued that the anti-abortion law was an infringement of the women's personal rights and defeated the Texas government attorney Henry Wade. [BBC News]

The outcome of this case marked a great victory for the women's rights movement as for the first time in the United States abortion was made a legal medical option out of pregnancy. By a majority of seven to two the justice bench ruled that the government did not have any control over the reproductive rights of women. Citing the fourteenth amendment of the constitution, which expounds the freedom of personal and family affairs, the judiciary ratified the decision to abort the child as a personal choice and freedom of the mother. However this decision is still viewed as a highly controversial one. The judges also defined the time period (trimesters) within which abortion is legal. Abortion within the first trimester was made legal throughout the United States while abortions in the second trimester were regulated. The judgement also ruled out abortions in the last trimester except under critical medical conditions. (To save the life of the mother)

RU 486 (The Controversial pill)

RU 486 was first developed by Rousell-Uclaf, a French pharmaceutical company in 1980 and by 1989 it was available for use in France. In the next decade other European nations soon followed suit and approved the drug. But it took nearly two decades for the United States to approve the drug. Finally in 2000 the FDA approved and legalized the drug. The ethical considerations of the pill are manifold. There are two main factions that argue for and against abortion within the United States. They are the pro-choice and the pro-life groups. So we need to understand the viewpoints of the two opposing groups in discussing the ethics of abortion. The main issue under question is the right of women as against the moral and ethical implications of killing a baby, which cannot even pray. Though these two groups have a totally different outlook and approach to the issue there are some general cases where there seems to be a general agreement over the abortion option. Let us look briefly into the views of these two rival groups so that we can understand their stance better before taking our stand on this issue.

Pro-Choice (Women's rights)

Ever since the women's rights movement gained force the pro-choice group has argued for abortion as a rightful choice. Abortion is perceived as an option that empowers women with the right to exercise her choice to prevent unwanted pregnancy. The result of the Row Vs Wade case added impetus to the Pro-choice group. The main stress is on the rights regarding the reproductive choice of women. The Pro-Choice group does not consider destroying the fetus as an act of killing. Furthermore they argue that the embryo cannot be treated as a human being until such a time that it is fully developed to live outside the mothers womb. So they consider using the RU 486 pill as perfectly right and acceptable method of terminating pregnancy.


On the other hand we have the Pro-life group, which opines that abortion in any form to be an unacceptable and inhuman practice and nothing short of brutal murder and infringement of the rights of the baby in the fetus. The Pro-life group views the problem from an entirely different perspective. This group considers that life begins as soon as the baby is conceived and hence abortion is viewed as a breach of rights of the baby. However the group approves abortion as the last and only resort in cases of emergency wherein the life of both the baby and the mother or at least one of them is at stake. Abortion is also approved in cases wherein the child is abnormal with severe birth defects.

Safety of RU 486

Ever since the Food and Drug control agency of the United States…[continue]

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