What would happen if we were to discover that an existing pill, one
already used for legitimate medical reasons and so important that it
wouldn’t be banned, was also effective in inducing abortions? It’s
happened. Misoprostol was developed to prevent stomach ulcers; it’s
also used to save women’s lives by stopping postpartum hemorrhages. Now
news of a third use is sweeping across the world.
induces medical (or pharmaceutical) abortions. It is most effective (95
percent) when used with a second pill, mifepristone or RU-486, but when
the latter drug is banned or unavailable, misoprostol alone is still 80
to 85 percent effective. The news comes from Nicholas Kristof, and the comments on his column of course draw out those at the extreme ends of the abortion discussion.
agree, however, with commenter William J. Keith of Philadelphia when he
says that because “abortions in developing countries, especially
illegal abortions, come with a horrific maternal (and, therefore,
fetal) death rate... The advent of medical abortion in developing
countries is a good thing.” I celebrate the possibility of saving many,
many girls’ and women’s lives in under-developed countries, and of
giving them the opportunity to live longer and better lives.
misoprostol is no panacea. It’s a drug, a powerful chemical, and it’s
being “tried out” on thousands of women in the developing world. Like
all chemicals, it can do harm when misused. The thought of women, many
of them only girls, using these powerful pills alone—isolated and with
no medical or emotional support—is frightening.
think of this new discovery, it’s available and it’s cheap, so it will
be distributed. Suddenly the need to provide young women and young men
with medical care, family planning help, guidance and support re:
pregnancy and family has just spiraled sharply upward.