The publication of a stellar May 31, 2018 NY Times article by Michelle Oberman entitled, “What Happens When Abortion Is Banned” presents her powerful recognition of the effect of chemical abortion choices for women worldwide.
Oberman is a law professor at Santa Clara University and the author of “Her Body, Our Laws: On the Front Lines of the Abortion War, From El Salvador to Oklahoma.” Read her whole article here.
I emailed my reaction to one of my editors: “While this author cites drawbacks to the use of chemicals to induce early abortion, those of us who have spent decades praying for liberalization are clapping our hands with joy. Women worldwide are going to get these pills! Yes, the poorest among us get cheated as usual.”
And it prompted me to recall my January 19, 2011 Pittsburgh Tribune Review op ed piece entitled “Abortion battle’s end looms” in which I cited the work of two of my long time heroes, now retired Professor of International Family Planning, Dr. D. Malcolm Potts and his wife Dr. Martha Campbell, both at UC Berkeley, whose independent NGO agency, Venture Strategies had by 2011 “helped distribute misoprostol to more than a dozen countries in Asia and Africa. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally used for ulcers and now off patent and costing about 10 cents per pill, misoprostol helps stop hemorrhaging during child birth.”
Miso as it is called, also let’s women terminate early pregnancies. So as I conjectured in my op ed “The advocates of abortion choice are going to win their battle in the next decade or so.”
Why? Because so many had by then and more now have used or will use chemical means to abort, evading the religious biases of those who have attacked women, including our present President, for so long.
We really don’t have to win that unwinnable political battle (Choice over non choice) now. Economics, women and science have done the heavy lifting already.
Some background here is useful: Professor Oberman and I share a South American factfinding experience, I in the late 1960’s, she in Chile in 2008.
She tells us, “The world of illegal abortion today looks nothing like the way it did 45 years ago. When I first visited Chile, in 2008, it was one of a handful of countries in the world that banned abortion in all cases, without exception. Given that hundreds of women a year died from botched illegal abortions in the United States before Roe v. Wade, which legalized the procedure in 1973, I expected to find hospitals in Chile overflowing with dying women. Instead, I found that abortion drugs have dramatically altered the situation.
“I’ve spent the past decade studying abortions in Latin American countries where abortion is always, or almost always, illegal. Yet, abortion in these countries remains commonplace. It is vastly safer than it was in the past, thanks to a revolution that has replaced back alleys with blister packs ordered online. But this revolution has come with unexpected consequences — for the doctor-patient relationship and for law enforcement.”
Septic abortion deaths were rampant when I took that late 1960’s family planning tour in Mexico, where I saw dead women in hospital wards awaiting removal. My commitment to a career of helping women gain choices including abortion stemmed from that experience.
As Professor Potts commented in his June 3, 2018 email to me: “I fully agree. Misoprostol is a miracle drug. Prior to misoprostol coming off patent in 2000 (it was previously only sold for stomach ulcers as Cytoec), the only way a traditional birth attendant could deal with postpartum hemorrhage was to watch the mother die in a pool of blood. Dr. Ndola Prata showed how TBAs could use miso safely. Now of course many women are given the drug in the last trimester to pregnancy and dose themselves after delivery. The WO were obsessed that oxytocin (needs injection and a cold chain and only useful in a clinical facility) was better than miso and it took a long argument to get miso accepted. Once miso is available it will also be used for safe early abortion As Don Collins says ‘clap your hands’.”
Another of my long time heroes, Phil Harvey, whose co-founding of Population Services International (PSI) and his role in helping revive Marie Stopes International along with the late Dr. Tim Black (another great family planning hero) already mark both as major family planning heroes.
Phil now through DKT International assists in providing more needed family planning supplies to developing world women than any NGO I know about.
His June 4, 2018 email comment to me on the Obermann article reflects his solid research into the miso issue: “Agreed on all points. The attached paper makes a brave attempt to calculate the volume of miso sales in developing countries (“How much MA is sold?”). No matter how you slice it miso has made a huge contribution to women’s health and lives. (I’m not as worried as the author, though, about banning abortion in the US. Even if Roe v Wade is overturned (which I do not believe it will be), probably half the US states would legalize it.)”
His 2015 article “Medical abortion: the hidden revolution” cites the vast spread of miso as well as the famous French abortion pill, mifepristone, an antiprogesterone developed by Roussel Uclaf released in 1988. Both drugs are recommended for use in early abortion.
Changes culturally since the 1984 have been profound. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and President Ronald Reagan co-authored a book entitled “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” which was lauded in a one review for its “willingness to unequivocally stand up for” prolife morality. Oops, since then that has been widely undermined by its main purveyors the Roman Catholic hierarchy who brought Pedophilia and huge political influence to matters which needed to remain secular to a new level.
Add the embrace of our widening tolerance and abidance for those people in the LGBT communities makes this book as one reviewer said, “A laughably transparent and failed attempt to espouse ridiculous and unfounded views. Simply put, this book is more suitable to the humor section or the pages of the National Enquirer.” But the unjust power to prolife advocates remains. To a major degree, I say, “But you can’t win now!!”
Mr. Reagan did comment that “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” That certainly applies to the above mentioned four family planning heroes!
In 1984 I was Chair and President of Ipas, which was then struggling to find brave donors for choice. It subsequently got that needed major support and became a major provider of early surgical abortion services (along with Marie Stopes International) around the world. Now of course both offer medical abortion options. But then so will many others as the economics continue to govern!
Lest I be too optimistic, I admit that equitable options do often not exist for poor women everywhere from Alabama to many places in Africa, so the supply of medical pills is key. However, our wise Professor Oberman points out that “The rise of abortion drugs simply throws into sharper relief what we have always known: Abortions rates are driven not by legality but by economics. Half of the abortions in the United States take place among women below the federal poverty line.
“People of good faith on both sides of the abortion war know that the best way to lower abortion rates is to deal with what causes women to want to abort in the first place. Rather than ending abortion, criminalizing abortion will merely create new ways in which the state can intensify the misery of the poorest among us.”
That many of those suburban white ladies who voted Republican before are not going to vote for Mr. Trump this Fall may be further recognition that he and Harvey Weinstein started a revolution. Are we in a new era?
From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013
By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Back in 1991, the NGO Don Collins founded in 1976, International Services Assistance Fund (ISAF), co-produced a TV quality 22-minute film called “Whose Choice?” which Ted Turner arranged to broadcast on September 21, 1992 in prime time on his then independent Turner Broadcast System (TBS). Other outlets such as PBS and several of its affiliates Collins and his colleagues contacted then refused to run it because of its forthright treatment of the abortion issue, arguing for all women’s right to choose not to have a baby. ISAF has made a new edition of that DVD. The purpose for reissuing this 3rd version of “Whose Choice?” was simply to show the historical urgency that attended those times, still blocked and attacked over 40 years after the Roe v Wade decision in 1973. This video is available for public viewing for the first time.
“Her Body, Our Laws” – A lecture by Michelle Oberman
From Miscarriage to Murder: El Salvador’s Brutal Abortion Laws
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