In 1982 Doris
Laird thought everything was running smoothly with her family and
her career as a humanities professor at Florida A & M University.
This was until she suffered a seizure and found that she had a "very
large" brain tumor called a meninginoma. Without any other choice
at that time to get rid of this life-threatening tumor, Laird chose
to have a craniotomy as soon as possible. The 23-hour operation
was successful and doctors believed that they had removed Laird's
entire tumor. Five years later Laird had to have a second craniotomy
to rid her of the meninginoma that grew back. This surgery and the
one that followed also for tumors that grew back, damaged the frontal
lobe of her brain and sent her into a clinical depression. Even
after the third craniotomy, surgeons knew that they had not successfully
removed the entire tumor and Laird faced the frightening reality
that she would have to undergo a fourth major brain surgery. Terrified
with her prognosis, Laird found an alternative, Mifepristone-formerly
known as RU-486-a drug whose use was only known to be successful
with medical abortions. Prior to the Federal Food and Drug Administration
approving Mifepristone either for medical use or for use with abortions,
the FDA had only allowed closely monitored non-profit programs to
administer this drug for research purposes. Laird has been taking
Mifepristone through the Compassionate Use Program sponsored by
the Feminist Majority Foundation for the last six years and the
parts of her last brain tumor that the surgeons could not remove
have not grown back. However up until Sept. 28, Laird ran the risk
of not being able to continue her treatment with Mifepristone because
pro-life advocates fail to acknowledge Mifepristone's medical uses.
They were and are still lobbying to stop the approval and the distribution
of this drug in the United States. The approval of this drug was
a large step in the medical field for its medical benefits for brain
tumors such as Laird's and also for other complications that effect
men and women such as fibroid tumors, Cushing's syndrome, and HIV.
is woman, hear her roar
fail to acknowledge the advancements made in the medical field with
Mifepristone; they only see it as a drug that is used in medical
abortions. Medical abortion is a process where a woman takes Mifepristone
in conjunction with misoprostle. The Mifepristone blocks progesterone-the
hormone that sustains pregnancy-and the misoprostle triggers contractions
in the uterus. The pro-life stance is that RU-486 is a quick fix
for unwanted pregnancies. An article that appeared in Citizen Magazine-
that is produced by Focus on the Family, an anti-choice, anti-gay
rights, patriarchal family organization that markets itself as a
"non-profit Christian organization"- described Mifepristone as "a
government-approved human pesticide," (Mathewes-Green). The only
side of Mifepristone's use that they can focus on is the embellishment
that women all over the country will have easy access to this drug,
and pop a pill every time that they have an unwanted pregnancy.
The author does not even address the proof that Mifepristone can
be used for other situations. However, FOF is not the only pro-life
organization that is trying to contest the approval process for
Mifepristone. The president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life,
Ray Neary, said that his group supports candidate George W. Bush
because he vowed to prevent the use of Mifepristone. Neary said
that his group is trying to stop Mifepristone because of its abortion
nature. "Abortion is abortion. Some might be more gruesome than
others, but as long as it's the destruction of another human being,
we're opposed," (Mathewes-Green).
While these pro-life
organizations focus on Mifepristone as a drug that can only cause
a loss of life, they fail to acknowledge that it can save many more.
These organizations that stood against Mifepristone's approval are
causing death and unnecessary pain for people like Laird who suffer
from meningiomas and do not have access to research treatment programs.
Mifepristone has been proven to stop these non-sex-specific brain
tumors that account for 15 percent of all brain tumors and 12 percent
of spinal chord tumors, (FMF, Fact Sheet). Mifepristone does this
by blocking progesterone receptors that influence tumor growth.
Mifepristone also keeps fibroid tumors from growing in the same
way. Fibroid tumors affect 30 percent of all women and cause over
500,000 women each year to undergo hysterectomies, (FMF, Fact Sheet).
In addition to its effectiveness with tumors, researchers believe
that Mifepristone stops the negative affects of the cortisol hormone.
Excess amounts of cortisol cause Cushing's Syndrome and researchers
believe that cortisol also plays a key role in the replication of
HIV. Scientists are in the process of proving that Mifepristone
can help people who suffer from Cushing's Syndrome, HIV and other
diseases that are caused by elevated levels of cortisol, (FMF, Fact
Sheet). Now that the FDA approved Mifepristone, scientists and physicians
can better research all the possible benefits of this drug.
If a scientist
found a possible cure for Cancer and HIV, the public would be outraged
if the FDA took 12 years to approve it. Mifepristone in many ways
has the potential to be that drug. Pro-life organizations are so
concerned with saving the lives of unviable fetuses that they unforgivably
slowed the FDA approval process costing the lives of many people
who would have benefited from Mifepristone. People who are not directly
affected with the incurable diseases that Mifepristone might aid
do not know the hope that it offers those who are suffering. For
an adolescent girl, it might be future children; for a man struggling
with HIV, it might buy him time before AIDS sets in but for Laird,
she is sure that Mifepristone saved her life.