Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Once again, profits come before women's lives

I wasn't sure what controversy was that has surrounded this pill, which is an alternative to surgical abortions and account for some 8-10% of the 1.3 million abortions a year in the US, and was approved in 2000. But, I thought that there had to be strings attached to a safe and affordable abortion pill. So, I thought I'd look a bit into the history of the drug. And after consulting wikipedia the first article I encountered revealed another violent and disgusting aspect of the Bush administration's (and every administration since the drug's initial production in the 80s) anti-abortion policy domestically and internationally, especially in the developing world.

Apparently, mifepristone was initially developed to prevent gastric ulcers,
but soon was discovered to be an excellent (and almost an instantaneous) cure for post-partum hemorrhaging. Here are some facts about this condition:

There are 14 million obstetric hemorrhages a year, killing an estimated 128,000 women, almost all in the developing world, where most births happen at home without skilled medical care. Severe postpartum bleeding is the No. 1 cause of maternal mortality worldwide: One woman dies every four minutes.
Why then is this cheap, heat stable, and easily used 'miracle cure' not widely accessible to woman and physicians world wide? According to Berkeley residents Martha Campbell and Dr. Malcolm Potts, it is simply because governments fear that it will be used to induce abortions. Where it is available in places such as South East Asia and Africa, it fetches black market prices that are far out of reach of most women, but, as the case is in the US or anywhere else, medical care is a luxury for the elite few who can pay.

This situation is extremely complicated by Bush and Cos 'abstinence only' stance toward AIDS in South Africa. In fact, any Planned Parenthood or health organization in Africa that mentions abortion or contraception can instantly lose all funding. Furthermore, this drug is manufactured by Pfizer, who reported that the drug (marketed as Cytotec) made about $180 million as opposed to their anti-cholesteral drug lipitor which made some $12 billion (and who knows how much their fucking anti-ED pills rake in). In fact they send letters to OBGYN urging them to not (mis)use the drug.

Even though the patent expired in 2000 it is pretty obvious that no companies have picked up this product for mass production at low costs (nor has any government made an effort in this direction). The fact that 100,000s of women are dying from this in addition to the 68,000 women who still die a year from back alley abortions lays bare the priorities of the the system we live under.

"Countries have made abortion illegal, and we've got to deal with that. But one of the things women use for an abortion is a rib of an umbrella or a bicycle spoke, and we don't make umbrellas or bicycles illegal," said Potts. "I think it's immoral not to save women's lives when they are dying from postpartum hemorrhage simply because they might use (a drug) for abortion."