tudent opinions divided over abortion pill approval

by Mickie Barg

After the Food and Drug Administration approved the controversial abortion pill, RU-486, last week, University students for and against the pill have been speaking out.
Personal privacy and the tendency to forgo normal contraceptive use are the biggest concerns. Students interested in using the pill, however, will have to go elsewhere to purchase it, because Boynton Health Service officials say they will not carry the pill. Instead, the health service will refer students to community clinics.
The pill, also known as mifepristone, blocks a pregnancy-sustaining hormone. It is followed by a second pill which causes uterine contractions resulting in spontaneous abortion. Mifepristone must be used within 49 days after a woman’s last menstruation.
While FDA approval of the pill is a milestone for proponents, pill disbursement privacy leaves its foes without demonstration points for confrontation. Forces on both sides of the issue are passionate with regard to the approval because of its effect on abortion politics.
“If the drug is accessible, protests and confrontations will disperse,” said University religious studies junior Brett Gross. “Women and doctors alone will be deciding and for this reason I can see why people feel so strongly.”
Margaret Sarafiny, a fisheries and wildlife senior, said the whole abortion issue will be less visible because women will not have to go to specific clinics offering abortions. No one will know of the decision except the patient and doctor.
Some University students expressed concern over couples who might be less diligent in using birth control methods because the abortion pill creates an easyout in the event of an unplanned pregnancy.
“This pill makes it too easy to have unprotected sex,” said University freshman Alena Vigoren. “It takes away risks.”
She said people should be more careful to not get pregnant in the first place by avoiding unprotected sex.
“I think (the pill) is basically a good thing,” Vigoren said. “I consider myself a responsible person but I regard it as a nice safety net if I got pregnant.”
Anthony Elfdring, a post-secondary option student, said the biggest negative is that mifepristone takes away a certain level of responsibility.
“Rectifying mistakes like ending an unwanted pregnancy is a choice for each person,” Elfdring said.
Other students such as art major Leah Uvodich were optimistic about the capacity of society to be accountable for contraception use.
“I don’t think it will change the way women look at birth control,” Uvodich said. “They will use the same precautions.”
Gross agreed that women would not rely on mifepristone for birth control. Not being a woman, he said, there is only so much he can understand about what women go through during a miscarriage.
“I know it wouldn’t be pleasant,” Gross said. “I can’t imagine anyone using it as birth control.”
“For students in a dorm, the unpredictability of when the bleeding will begin is very inconvenient,” said Marilyn Joseph, director of Boynton Health Service’s Women’s Clinic.
Mifepristone will be marketed under the name Mifeprex and available in about a month, but not at Boynton.
In 1996, the Student Health Advisory Committee and Boynton made a resolution which states drug referrals will be made to existing community clinics and will not be included in routine health services. The decision came after the FDA announced mifepristone was a safe and effective abortion method that year.
Joseph said the economic feasibility and other FDA requirements make dispensing the drug at Boynton impossible.
“The FDA requirements to dispense the pill are very strict,” she said. “They require ultrasound equipment we don’t have to detect tubal pregnancies.”

Mickie Barg covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at (612) 627-4070 x3223. She can also be reached at [email protected].