In July, Ontario Health Minister Frances Lankin appealed to the federal government to hasten approval of Etienne Baulieu’s abortion pill, RU 486. Apparently, as far as she is concerned, the drug is perfectly fine. But is it?

As previously noted in The Interim, an international enquiry commission with headquarters in Paris drew attention in a 1990 report to some of the hazards the drug involves. So let’s review some RU 486 facts:


A.    By itself, RU 486 induces abortion only 60 per cent of the time; so it must be coupled with a prostaglandin injection to ensure expulsion of the fetus. This brings the effectiveness up to 80 per cent. Repeated prostaglandin injections induce abortion in another 15 per cent. About 5 per cent of women who take the pill, however, still need surgical abortions.

B.    Bleeding occurs in 90 per cent of the women who take it, and between 5 and 10 per cent need medical or surgical treatment in consequence. Other common side effects include serious digestive troubles such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting; violent uterine pain; and cardiovascular and respiratory ailments. The pill can also anemia. It can also cause fetal deformities.

C.    Furthermore, there is no experimental proof, as is sometimes claimed, that the drug is helpful in the treatment of breast cancer, stress or difficult births. On the contrary, the commission maintains, it is incompatible with long-term treatment of such disabilities because it inhibits the immune system. Laboratory reports also show that it has a strong stimulating effect on one strain of breast cancer.

D.    The report characterizes the procedure used with RU 486 as a “technique which is very painful and difficult to handle. It is astonishing,” the report also says, “to see this new ‘treatment’ justified as a desirable alternative to suction abortion, because it needs a far more constraining supervision.”

The only needed decision, concluded Professor Pierre de Vernejoul, chairman of the medical committee which sponsored the enquiry, “is immediate cancelling of the marketing and use of RU 486…the medical and scientific approach has been sacrificed to ideological motives.”


The July, 1992 Interim carried an account of one woman’s experiences with the abortion pill, as she described them to LIFE, a British pro-life organization. The supposedly simple method of procuring abortion caused her intense pain over a period of several weeks, severe bleeding, and an emergency evacuation of her womb because the fetus had not been aborted properly, infection and possible infertility. Her suffering made it seem that only a sadistic doctor would prescribe RU 486 for one of his patients.


In an article entitled “Stop the RU 486 Madness,” Dr. Zoltan Rona argued in the July-August issue of Alive, a Canadian journal of health and nutrition, that the drug seriously disrupts normal human physiology and is bound to have harmful long-term effect. He condemned the sneaking of the drug into Canada under the guise of cancer therapy, saying that to date there is not one shred of evidence that it helps in the treatment of breast cancer.

Nathanson: A Ruse

Virtually the same arguments were presented by Dr. Bernard Nathanson at the “Save the Planet’s People” conference in Toronto (June 29, 2992).

Nathanson had checked the references to RU 486 purporting to show that the pill was helpful in the treatment of cancer. He found the listed articles either in obscure, unobtainable journals or non-existent. It became clear that the idea of bringing the pill into North America for tests on cancer was only a ploy: once it had been introduced, it might be employed as an abortifacient.

Drugs get approval for specific indications. If a drug is brought into Canada or the U.S. for tests in the treatment of cancer, it is not supposed to be used for some other purpose. This is the theory; the enforcement, especially in Canada, is not as rigorous as it might be and the potential for abuse exists. Should RU 486 be allowed into Canada for testing on caner, and then begin to be used for abortion, right-to-life organizations should be ready to make strong protests to the Health Protection Branch in Ottawa.

Pill’s Advantages?

An expensively produced and well-illustrated pamphlet put out by the “Childbirth by Choice Trust” in Toronto lists a whole series of advantages which the abortion pill has. The Trust is an organization of CARAL (The Canadian Abortion Rights Action League). The pamphlet minimizes the pill’s side-effects: “Studies have found that blood loss and pain from an RU 486 abortion are no greater that from a surgical abortion.” It calls RU 486 “As significant medical breakthrough which has the potential to improve the health of women around the world.” It also encourages people to write to Hoechst-Roussel Canada to make it available to Canadian women.


The pamphlet says that RU 486 has the potential to make abortion more accessible: “Administering it does not require the same level of medical expertise or time as a surgical abortion.” This point is highly questionable, at least at the present time.

The booklet also says, “RU 486 has tremendous potential for use in developing countries where hundreds of thousands of women each year are injured or die from unsafe abortions.”

In debate on French television with Dr. Etienne Baulieu, the famous French geneticist Dr. Jerome Lejeune turned this argument around, saying, “This is a pill to eliminate the Third World.” Lejeune deeply regretted that chemical warfare had started, pointing out that this pill was the first pesticide developed specifically for use against humans.

Baulieu presented the standard argument of pro-abortionists, namely that no child is involved – only a pre-embryo, not a human being.

But Professor Lejeune kept returning to the fact that RU 486 is a toxic product which has only one real use, to put a stop to a life which has already started. If it is put on sale, he maintained, it will kill more people than Hitler, Stalin and Mao-Tse-Tung put together.

Baulieu tried to argue that the gross national product in developing countries is systematically cancelled out by badly controlled population growth, but Lejeune was having none of this. “I say, and this is the absolute truth, that it is for the first time a question of a pesticide against little human beings. It is the first time that this has happened, and I plead that in the country of Pasteur, we should not start the chemical killing of children.” (The text of the T.V. debate is found in the appendix to the quarterly Human Life Review. Summer, 1992.)

Lejeune’s remarks point to the fundamental issue at stake, the central point which cannot be ignored. Thus we may ask: Why do the feminists want RU 486? Apparently, their “pro-choice” ideology forces them to press for acceptance of a drug which, for all they know, may be harmful to women.

RU 486 is only one in a long series of ill consequences which have resulted from the untrammeled feminist drive for “freedom of choice” and the autonomy of the self. It may yet prove to be the worst.