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The Abortion Pill: Securing Women’s Rights

By Amy Hernandez

The year is 2020, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, the president has chosen to replace her with a woman who is anti-abortion, and men still think they have a right to tell women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. Great women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg have fought to give women the right to have an abortion, but with her passing, fundamental women's rights are being threatened. On September 1, 2020, twenty Republican senators asked the FDA to ban the abortion pill. To make matters worse, on September 26, 2020, the president announced his intent to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Unfortunately for women, Barrett is a conservative activist who believes "life begins at conception."

A Brief History of the Abortion Pill

The abortion pill, mifepristone (RU-486), was developed by a French pharmaceutical company in 1980. In 1983, the FDA issued a testing permit to a nonprofit group to conduct trials of RU-486 as a method for early abortion. Next, RU-486 was approved in France, but distribution was halted because of protests. However, the French Minister of Health intervened and ordered the drug to be returned to the market. In 1989, the FDA banned the importation of RU-486 for personal use due to pressure from the Bush Administration and others. Later in 1990, leading scientists testified before Congress that the FDA import ban was hindering research. Then, in 1993, President Clinton asked the FDA to reconsider its import ban. From 1995-96, the Population Council was given the U.S. patent rights for RU-486, and 2,100 women began participating in clinical trials. Later, in 1996, the FDA issued an "approvable letter" for RU-486 to be used along with misoprostol– a drug that causes uterine contractions to remove the embryo– for early abortion. In 1997, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that showed that RU-486 and prostaglandin (misoprostol) medically terminated 92% of pregnancies when taken within forty-nine days of conception. Finally, the FDA approved RU-486 on September 28, 2000.

As seen through the abortion pill's complicated history, it has been a long fight to get the pill approved and give women the right to choose. Twenty years after the approval of the abortion pill, there are still many men, and even some women, who want to take away women's right to choose and force them into an unwanted pregnancy.

Why Republicans Want to Ban the Abortion Pill

It shouldn't come as a surprise that in 2020, a group of Republicans is trying to ban the abortion pill, but here we are, enraged and shocked once again. The Republican senators who signed the letter asking the FDA to ban the abortion pill were the following: Ted Cruz, Kevin Cramer, Steve Daines, Joni K. Ernst, Mike Braun, James M. Inhofe, Roger F. Wicker, Michael B. Enzi, M. Michael Rounds, Kelly Loeffler, Mike Lee, Rob Portman, Cindy Hyde-Smith, James Lankford, Pat Roberts, Tom Cotton, Mike Crapo, Marsha Blackburn, James E. Risch, and John Hoeven. I've taken the time to write all their names down because I thought you should know the names of the people who want to take away a woman's right to choose. They have claimed that the abortion pill is dangerous, a convenient claim that hides other statistics. In a tweet, Senator Ted Cruz wrote, "pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease. Make no mistake, Mifeprex is a dangerous pill." Cruz says, "pregnancy is not life-threatening," but around 700 women die each year in the United States from pregnancy or delivery complications. Now, compare the 24 deaths from Mifeprex since its approval in 2000 to the 1,824 deaths from viagra between 1998 and 2007. Convenient, is it not? You'll hear a man's concern for the lives of women who take the abortion pill, but not for the lives of men who take viagra even when the lack of an erection is not life-threatening, nor does it cure or prevent any disease. Once again, people (mainly men) have shown their true colors when the legality of abortion is being decided. There is no real concern for the lives of women who want to have an abortion; the request to ban the abortion pill lies in the interest to take away a women's options. Make no mistake. This request is not about concern. It's about control.

Why You Should be Concerned About Amy Coney Barrett

Barrett is a conservative judge against reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and access to affordable health care. To be more clear, Barrett thinks the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, abortion is "always immoral," and would vote to undo marriage equality. Moreover, Barrett signed a statement in 2012, stating that Obama's administration policy requiring employee health plans to cover contraption is "a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand." Then, in 2015, she signed a statement endorsing the church's conservative views on abortion, sexuality, and marriage. All in all, Barrett is reminding a lot of us of Serena Joy from the Handmaid's Tale, especially after finding out that Barret reportedly belongs to a Christian group called "People of Praise" where men are called "heads" and women "handmaidens." Apparently, this group also teaches husbands to be their wives' heads and take authority over their families. When we say we want more women in power, we don't mean people like Barrett. I get that Barrett's religion is important to her, but religion is not an excuse to control others and spread intolerance. People have the right to say, "I can't do that; it's against my religious beliefs," not "you can't do that because it's against my religious beliefs."

Ultimately, many of us have realized that people who are pro-life are really pro-control. They want to be the ones who decide who gets to do what and which lives actually have value. The same people against abortion are against Planned Parenthood, birth control, and other forms of contraceptives. To be clear, the abortion pill is not birth control. A man can have all the sex he wants and not worry about pregnancy, but women are expected only to have sex for reproductive purposes. A man can opt-out of fatherhood, but a woman can't opt-out of motherhood. People claim to be pro-life and have the audacity not to support LGBTQ+ rights, racial equity, and universal healthcare, housing, and education. Don’t be mistaken. The same politicians who are “pro-life” go on to deny the children born from unwanted pregnancies the resources needed to live healthy lives.

Most importantly, women don't have to justify their abortion to anyone. Women should be free to decide what to do with their reproductive systems, and no one, especially someone without a uterus, has the right to decide for them. It's disappointing that in 2020 we still have to tell people to be understanding and open-minded, but until women's rights are secure, we must continue to do the work.

Amy Hernandez is an editorial intern dedicated to researching and writing about all things skincare, film, and fashion.

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