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RU486: Women Have the Right to Know the Risks

by Melinda Tankard Reist, Contributing Writer for AnaiRhoads.org

Recent publicity for abortion drug RU486 has given women assurances of its safety. The drug is promoted as do-it-yourself, easy, private and “more natural.” In this pro-RU486 spin, the voices of women harmed by the chemical cocktail have been drowned out.

“Rose”, 27, from South Australia, shares her experience in the new preface of RU-486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals by Renate Klein, Janice Raymond and Lynette Dumble. She was told it would be easy and quick. “The worst part … was the sheer amount of time it took for me to ‘terminate’ my baby: every large clot of blood – which I could literally feel passing through my insides … was a reminder of the fact I was terminating a baby, for which I felt hugely saddened.

“It was three days of nausea, high temperature, sweating, cramping, lots of blood, distress and swirling emotions. I would never ever go through that again.” Rose bled for another three weeks.

An unnamed 25-year-old American woman described her experience after taking RU486 at six weeks. ”I was in excruciating physical pain for at least 12 hours straight and I was bleeding through my pants, but I was in so much pain I couldn’t even clean myself,” she says. “I vomited continuously … I couldn’t speak, eat, drink, sit up, and had difficulty breathing … I thought I was going to die …

“I was told I would have emotional instability for a few weeks because of the hormonal chemical imbalance that the drug causes. I have experienced severe emotional fluctuation ever since … I would never have taken this had I been properly informed.”

Norine Dworkin-McDaniel’s story “I was betrayed by a pill” was published in Marie Claire in 2007. “Nothing prepared me for the searing, gripping, squeezing pain that ripped through my belly … For 90 minutes I was disoriented, nauseated, and, between crushing waves of contractions … racing from the bed to the bathroom with diarrhoea,” she wrote.

“The next night, I started bleeding. I bled for 14 days. A follow-up ultrasound confirmed I’d aborted.” She developed “huge cystic boils that soon covered my neck, shoulders, and back” and suffered “an utter lack of ability to do anything more strenuous than sleep or lie on the couch.”

Since the death of his 18-year-old daughter Holly in 2003 from an infection after an RU486 abortion, Monty Patterson has lobbied the US Congress to pass ”Holly’s Law”, calling for the suspension and review of the drug.

In Australia, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has agreed to a request from Marie Stopes Health, a subsidiary of Marie Stopes International, to list Mifepristone Linepharma (RU486) and the misoprostol GyMiso on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for termination up to 49 days gestation. From August 1, both drugs are available on the PBS.

Marie Stopes’ record in following up women who have been prescribed the abortion drug is questionable. On March 19, 2012, it was reported that a woman had died sometime in 2010 at a Marie Stopes clinic. In a study by Marie Stopes’ staffers published in the Medical Journal of Australia (September 2012), this death was callously attributed to the woman’s own negligence because she didn’t ”seek medical advice” and died of sepsis.

Where was the follow-up by Marie Stopes? There was no coronial inquiry.

In May 2012, the Therapeutic Goods Administration told a Senate committee it didn’t collect information on RU486-related deaths of women overseas. Perhaps it doesn’t think it important enough? As at April 30, 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration had held detailed reports on 14 US deaths and five deaths elsewhere, with two further deaths reported since then.

Noting that only one in 10 adverse events is reported, the FDA has recorded 2207 adverse events, including 612 hospitalisations, 58 ectopic pregnancies, 339 women who experienced blood loss requiring transfusions and 256 infections, 48 of which were ”severe”.

Here, the TGA has been informed of 132 cases of ongoing pregnancy requiring surgical abortion, 23 cases of haemorrhage requiring blood transfusion and 599 cases of incomplete abortion requiring surgery. This means about 1 in 30 women will need a second termination procedure. Other negative outcomes include cervical tearing and uterine perforation.

A South Australian study found women undergoing “medical” abortion had more symptoms, reported higher pain scores and had higher rates of emergency admissions. After discharge they had more nausea and diarrhoea. According to an earlier British study, women who saw the foetus were most susceptible to psychological distress, including nightmares, flashbacks, and unwanted thoughts related to the procedure.

While Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says that the drug will be an advantage for women in remote and under-resourced areas, the lack of nearby emergency facilities is a reason not to use it, medical bodies say. Regardless of one’s views on abortion, pushing this drug combo as simple is disrespectful of a woman’s right to know what she might face.

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Over-Exposure: How Teens are Pawns to Porn

by Melinda Tankard Reist, Contributing Writer for AnaiRhoads.org

A 15-year-old boy confided in me after I addressed his class at a Sydney school last year. He cried as he told me he had been using porn since the age of nine. He didn’t have a social life, had few friends, had never had a girlfriend. His life revolved around online porn. He wanted to stop, he said, but didn’t know how.

I have had similar conversations with other boys since then.

Girls also share their experiences. Of boys pressuring them to provide porn-inspired acts. Of being expected to put up with things they don’t enjoy. Of seeing sex in terms of performance. Girls as young as 12 show me the text messages they routinely receive requesting naked images.

Pornography is invading the lives of young people – 70 percent of boys and 53.5 percent of girls have seen porn by age 12, 100 per cent of boys and 97 per cent of girls by age 16, according to a study behind the book The Sex Lives of Australian Teenagers, by Joan Sauers.

This is an unprecedented experiment on the sexual development of young people. The Australian Medical Association says there is a strong relationship between exposure to sexually explicit material and sexual behaviour that predisposes to adverse sexual and mental health outcomes. Girls have seen porn by age 12, 100 percent of boys and 97 percent of girls by age 16, according to a study behind the book The Sex Lives of Australian Teenagers, by Joan Sauers.

The 2012 report of Britain’s Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection found that exposure to porn had a negative impact on children’s attitudes to sex, relationships and body image. Cross-country studies link teens’ frequent consumption of porn with acceptance of sexual harassment and forcing someone into sex.

The globalisation of pornographic imagery has led to destructive ideas about sex. This is canvassed in the documentary Love and Sex in an Age of Pornography, which screened on SBS Two on Friday night and will be repeated on August 15 on SBS One). Co-directed by Maree Crabbe and David Corlett, the film draws on interviews with 75 young people.

It shows how healthy sexual exploration is distorted in a pornified world. The importance of consent and respect has become clouded. Boys are imitating what they see online and find that girls don’t always groan with pleasure at porn-styled sexual pounding.

According to a 2010 content analysis of the most popular porn, 88 percent of scenes included acts of physical aggression and 48 per cent of scenes contained verbal aggression. In 94 percent of cases, the aggression was directed towards women who were often shown enjoying it.

Jake, 18, says of his first sexual experience at 15: ”First time I had sex, because I’d watched so much porn, I thought all chicks dig this, all chicks want this done to them … all chicks love it there. So I tried all this stuff and, yeah, it turned out bad …

”When a guy watches porn: ‘that’s hot, I want to try that. You, do this, this and this,’ you know what I mean? And they will just keep pressuring and pressuring. I’ve got mates who do it. They will tell you, ‘Yeah, she didn’t want to at first but I just kept hounding her and hounding her and finally she let me …”’

The level of dis-empowerment in the girls is disheartening. Disconnected from their own sense of pleasure and intimacy, they often pretend to like certain acts to keep a boy happy. Often he doesn’t even ask permission.

Sara, 20, says, ”Girls, they love it in porn, so maybe boys think that girls like that and, you know, when you love someone, you know, you’re always willing to just … make them happy. [if] I’m in love, then I’ll do it for you and I’ll pretend that I like it … And in the end … I just became an object … ”

Porn has also contributed to body-image dissatisfaction. Boys think they need bigger penises. Girls have their pubic hair removed because boys who regularly consume porn think it’s disgusting. Sara says: ”[Porn stars] are really pretty … like they’ve got gigantic breasts and … perfectly moulded vaginas … my body does not look like that.”

Co-director Crabbe says what was most striking to her in making the film was the pressure porn put on young people.

”Young people are receiving very unhelpful messages about what it means to be a man, or a woman, and about sexuality,” she says. ”It’s selling sexuality short. Where do young people find mutually consenting, pleasurable experiences of sexuality in a culture in which the porn industry has such a powerful voice?”

One sign of hope is the young people who want just that. They have a desire for something better than what porn offers, a quest for authentic intimacy and love. As Joel says: ”It is all about being close to that person and showing them how much you love them.”

As published in The Sun-Herald

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Mental Illness Warped in the Media

by Anai Rhoads

A well-known tv personality has made it a point to perpetuate the on-going stigma surrounding mental illness, going as far as stating they, “suck on rocks and bark at the moon.” This person is not your average media leech. His main job is to help his guests figure out their issues.

Dr. Phil’s methods are unorthodox to begin with, but somehow millions of people view his show and follow his lead. He bases his style on “common sense,” as he puts it, and has been known to have shows highlighting bullying. This is terribly ironic since he openly bullies his guests to in order to gain more ratings.

In addition to his illogical approach, he lacks all empathy for those he claims to be helping. His recent derogatory comment about those with serious mental afflictions really hit a nerve with Americans and organisations who fight to end this terrible stigma.

Dr. Phil wasn’t the only one to throw out insensitive comments. NBC Nightly News’ Brian Williams also played doctor during his segment on Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper and rapist. Williams said Castro is, “arguably the face of mental illness.” While Castro, himself, stated he was “sick”, there are no verifiable documents by psychiatrists to support his excuse for premeditating the kidnapping, rape and torture of the women he hoarded in his home for well over a decade.

Journalism is based on non-biased information. Although there are left and right-leaning media outlets out there, generally a journalist does not include a personal statement or opinion. Arm-chair politics and opinions are best left to the viewer, who then has the opportunity to openly express themselves in forums and within other mediums. Williams essentially violated the core basics of the journalism guidelines.

Mental illness is a complicated affliction. While a person may be lumped into a specific category, they often experience a host of conditions relating to their mental and physical state. Those in the media, who have the viewer’s utmost attention, should never suggest mental illness and violence go hand-in-hand. It’s not a fact and it only instils more fear and ignorance.

“For all the progress that has been made in recent years, Dr. Phil of the CBS Distribution Network and Brian Williams of the NBC Nightly News, through televised comments, perpetuated cruel and inaccurate stereotypes about people living with mental illness,” says Michael J. Fitzpatrick, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Last month, President Obama’s White House Conference on Mental Health launched its current National Dialogue on mental illness. During the conference, Obama stated, “Our country must remove the ‘embarrassment’ associated with mental illness. We’ve got to get rid of that stigma.”

This apparently seemed to have no effect on Dr. Phil and Brian Williams as they shared their opinions in these last two weeks.

NAMI calls on both Dr. Phil, Mr. Williams and their television networks to join in that effort and participate constructively in the National Dialogue.

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