Tuesday, January 22, 2008

35 Years Later

On January 22, 1973, the US Supreme Court issued its Roe v Wade decision, but the issue of reproductive rights for women continues to be a hot-button issue. Many of us worry that this key decision is going to be undone by the current Supreme Court, and with good reason. Still, as of today, women still have the right to choose.

Last week, a report issued which announced that the rate of abortions had fallen in this country. All sorts of reasons have been suggested for the decline, including better access to birth control, but the announcement should not be taken as a repudiation of the principles enunciated by the Roe Court. It's still the law.

Interestingly, the Washington Post has chosen today to publish an article on the increased use of RU-486.

The French abortion pill RU-486, on the market since 2000, has become an increasingly common alternative, making abortion less clinical and more private. At a time when the overall number of abortions has been steadily declining, RU-486-induced abortions have been rising by 22 percent a year and now account for 14 percent of the total -- and more than one in five early abortions performed by the ninth week of pregnancy.

The pill, often called "miffy" after its chemical name mifepristone and brand name Mifeprex, also has helped slow the decline in abortion providers, as more physicians who previously did not perform the procedure discreetly start to prescribe the pill. ...

Ruth Lesnewski, a family physician in New York, did not perform abortions until mifepristone was approved.

"It allows abortion to happen in a more private, secure setting -- a doctor's office and a woman's home, rather than an easily targeted clinic," she said. "It's been a surprisingly smooth and rewarding experience for such a fraught area of life. My patients really tremendously appreciate being able to end an unwanted pregnancy privately and quickly."
[Emphasis added]

While there have been a few problems with the drug, at this point, those problems have not reached beyond the anecdotal level, at least according to the article. What is significant is that the use of RU-486 means that women have an alternative to the abortion clinic, that they can go through this "fraught area of life" in privacy, which was the whole point of the Roe decision.

So, 35 years later, Roe is still good law, and women still have the right to choose. With any luck at all, after November that right will be solidified.



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