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Women - Mifepristone (RU-486): Myths and Truths - Christina Xenos

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.

Ms. Xenos is woman, hear her roar

Pro-life advocates 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.