Hard pill to swallow

During last month’s media fanfare surrounding FDA approval of the abortion pill, RU-486, Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt reported that women in the clinical trials said such medical abortions felt more natural than surgical ones: These women "feel more in charge, more in control of their personal health," Feldt says (New York Times, September 29).

Does this bit of rhetoric show any interest in addressing the issues of control that bring women to abortion? No. Does it accurately reflect what women said in clinical trials? No again. In fact, some were distressed by the experience: initially there is intense cramping, and then nine-to-sixteen days of bleeding; above all, women were shocked at seeing the sac, the placenta, and, in more developed pregnancies (the approved RU-486 cut-off limit is seven weeks), hints of human form.

Among women who had a prior surgical abortion, reports were mixed. Some preferred the RU-486-induced abortion because it felt less invasive than the surgical one: there were no instruments or noise from the suction machine. One of the women did express puzzlement at the use of the word natural, however: "Natural? That is baffling to me. To me it seems incredibly unnatural."

Some of those who preferred surgical abortion did so on pragmatic grounds: a surgical abortion requires one trip to the doctor as opposed to three; and it is over in a few hours. For some, there...

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