As one of the most controversial issues in American society today, abortion has recently provoked action and discussion among University students.
At a dinner event jointly sponsored by Health Students for Choice and Pro Choice Resources Wednesday evening on the St. Paul campus, University graduate students of health and medical sciences listened to speakers address prominent issues surrounding abortion and reproductive health care. Topics included views on Mifepristone, the controversial abortion-inducing pill. First introduced to the world 17 years ago, it is still unavailable to women in the United States.
“Abortion is one of the most important, profound, personal and far-reaching decisions a woman should ever make. A decision to bring into this world, or not, a life. The providers of that service tomorrow are unknown,” said speaker Tom Webber, who is the president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota.
There are currently seven operating abortion clinics in Minnesota located in a three-county area.
First-year medical student Kara Korach, one of the organizers of the event, said the idea behind the dinner was to create a forum for health students to get questions answered about reproductive health care.
“A lot of us have talked about abortion from a political or religious or ideological standpoint,” said Korach. “But when you choose to become a medical professional, you enter another realm of medical fact.”
Health Students for Choice member David Hilden said abortion is not given very much attention in the University curriculum. “It’s a political hot potato,” said Hilden. “I think frankly that the medical school administration shies away from it.”
Korach also added, “If we’re afraid to talk about it, who’s not being served? Fifty percent of our patient base — women.”
Webber also stated his view on Mifepristone, saying that the drug’s availability in this country is long overdue.
Mifepristone, also known as RU-486 and the “morning-after” pill, was first synthesized in 1980 by a French pharmaceutical company. By 1988, the drug was made available to women in France and soon after approved for use in Great Britain and Sweden.
“RU-486 causes the uterus to be unable to receive progesterone from the ovaries,” said Dr. Mildred Hanson, a leading gynecologist in Minnesota. Progesterone is a hormone necessary to maintain a pregnancy during the first three months. “What happens is the pregnancy is not appropriately nourished and the intra-uterine environment will not support the pregnancy,” she said.
The Student Health Advisory Committee will be holding a presentation and discussion session regarding Mifepristone’s possible availability at the University on May 7 at Boynton Health Service.
But it does not appear that students will have access to the drug any time soon.
“Our initial recommendation is that Boynton will not be prescribing RU-486, the main reason being for financial reasons,” said Dave Dorman, committee adviser and health educator at Boynton.
“In order to do RU-486, a medical abortion versus a surgical abortion,” explained Dorman, “we’d have to be prepared to do surgical abortions on site. Three to 11 percent of these medical abortions do eventually require a surgical abortion.”
Still another voice holds an opinion about the abortion issue. Mary Jane Carlson is a representative of New Life Family Services, which has a chapter at the University.
“The center has been developed for the purpose of providing Christ-centered personal and practical assistance to persons faced with pregnancy that demands difficult and crucial decisions,” said Carlson.
“The intent of the center is to take positive action to protect the sanctity of life and to provide alternatives to abortion by making information, counseling and practical assistance available in an atmosphere of Christian love.”
Carlson said the center supports both women who don’t want to have an abortion, and those who have had an abortion and regret their decisions through counseling and support groups.
She also noted the center’s view on Mifepristone. “We do not support this pill because it’s intent and affect is to destroy a human being,” she said.
Along with members of health groups, the abortion issue has also influenced undergraduates to take action.
University student Erika Sass has recently co-founded University Coalition For Choice, which she said will serve as an educational source of abortion issues.
“A lot of people think the abortion issue is dead, but it still affects so many people,” said Sass. “I think that by having us here, giving students informative meetings and seminars, people can stay on top of the issues.”