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Abortion - After Planned Parenthood V. Casey

drug anti clinics women

As a result of the Court's decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the battle over abortion moved beyond the question of whether Roe v. Wade would be overturned, to focus on what conditions truly constitute an American woman's right to safe, legal abortion. After a number of incidents of violence at abortion clinics, the abortion rights movement focused on lobbying for legislation and winning court cases guaranteeing access to

Abortion foes participating in a "March for Life" rally in Olympia, Washington. Groups on both sides of the abortion debate have staged demonstrations and rallies in order to gain the political and emotional support of lawmakers and the public.
AP/WIDE WORLD PHOTOS

abortion clinics. The anti-abortion movement, on the other hand, continued to vigorously oppose abortion but became increasingly split between militant and moderate factions. Behind the split was an alarming increase in violent actions by militant anti-abortion protesters. Between 1993 and 1994, five abortion providers were killed by anti-abortion militants. Although such killings undermined public support for the anti-abortion movement, they also damaged the morale of those who staff family planning clinics; some clinics even shut down. As a result, family planning services, including abortion, remain difficult to obtain for women in many parts of the United States, particularly in rural areas.

The Supreme Court decided a number of different cases surrounding the issue of anti-abortion protests, many of which made it more difficult for anti-abortion groups to disrupt the operations of family planning clinics. In Madsenv. Women's Health Center, 512 U.S. 753, 114 S. Ct. 2516, 129 L. Ed. 2d 593 (1994), the Court upheld a regulation barring abortion protesters within 36 feet of a Melbourne, Florida, clinic. In another 1994 decision, National Organization for Women v. Scheidler, 510 U.S. 249, 114 S. Ct. 798, 127 L. Ed. 2d 99, the Court upheld the use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) chapter of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (18 U.S.C.A. §§ 1961–1968) against militant anti-abortion groups. RICO, which was originally designed to combat Mafia crime, gives the government a potent tool to convict those involved in violence against abortion providers and their clinics.

In May 1994, President Clinton signed into law another tool to be used against anti-abortion militants, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which allows for federal criminal prosecution of anyone who, "by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates, or interferes… with any person … obtaining or providing reproductive health services" (18 U.S.C.A. §248). The law also makes it a federal crime to intentionally damage or destroy the property of any reproductive health facility, and it permits persons harmed by those engaging in prohibited conduct to bring private suits against the wrongdoers. The law imposes stiff penalties as well for those found guilty of violating its provisions.

Ultimately, medical technology may have as much to do with the outcome of the abortion debate as politics. New drugs have been developed that induce abortion without a surgical procedure. The most well known of these is RU-486, or mifepristone, developed by the French pharmaceutical company Roussel Uclaf. The drug blocks the action of the female hormone progesterone, preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the wall of the uterus. It is used with a second drug in pill form, prostaglandin, taken 48 hours later, which causes uterine contractions. The uterine lining is then sloughed off, along with any fertilized eggs. Widely used in Europe since the early 1990s, RU-486 is said to be 92 to 95 percent effective. The drug is also being tested as a possible treatment for breast cancer, endometriosis, brain tumors, and depression.

The FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA), under the Reagan and Bush administrations, banned the importation of RU-486 into the United States. However, in April 1993, the Clinton administration pressured Roussel Uclaf to license the drug for sale to the U.S. Population Council, a New York-based nonprofit organization, which said it would conduct clinical tests in the United States. In 1994, the pharmaceutical company donated its U.S. patent of the drug to the council. By 1996, the Population Council had filed for FDA approval, and in September 2000, the FDA approved the "abortion pill." Danco Laboratories, a New York-based women's health pharmaceutical company which had been given the rights by the council to manufacture and distribute mifepristone, made the drug available to U.S. clinics by November. In the two years following its introduction, over one hundred thousand women in the United States opted to use mifepristone as an abortion option. Abortion protesters quickly rallied and began to petition the FDA to rescind their approval of the drug, claiming that mifepristone is harmful to women.

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