October 26, 2000

Gannett Opts Not to Offer RU-486

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The abortion pill RU-486, also known as mifepristone, recently gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration, but it will not be offered by Gannett Health Center.

Gannett will not dispense the pill because abortion services are beyond the scope of care at the University’s health clinic, according to Sharon Dittman, associate director of University health services.

RU-486 will be offered by Planned Parenthood of Tompkins County starting early next year, according to Karen Schantz, director of the public affairs committee for Planned Parenthood.

Still, Dittman says that Gannett staff members will provide consultation and will refer patients to specialists who have training, facilities and technology to provide the best possible support care in case of complications from RU-486 usage.

According to a statement issued by Gannett, the FDA has decreed that RU-486 can only be dispensed by health care providers who can accurately assess the duration of pregnancy and can “provide surgical intervention in cases of incomplete abortion, severe bleeding, or have made plans to provide such care through others, and are able to assure patient access to medical facilities equipped to provide blood transfusions and resuscitation if necessary.”

“When the health needs of women require the services of a specialist, Gannett refers women to obstetricians, midwives, gynecologists, surgeons, Planned Parenthood, or other appropriate providers,” Dittman said.

“We support women regardless of their choice; we work to refer women to services to support them in the decisions they make. We also counsel women so they can arrive at their own choice and have the services they need,” she added.

While Gannett does offer emergency contraception, also known as “the morning after pills [ECPs];” this treatment is not the same as RU-486.

ECPs can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex and only prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the lining of a woman’s uterus. However, ECPs do not terminate pregnancies that are already underway.

Mifepristone, on the other hand, aborts a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone. Mifepristone “can be taken to end a pregnancy from the time a woman knows she is pregnant up to seven weeks (49 days) after the beginning of her last menstrual period,” according to a statement from Planned Parenthood.

Dittman said she was not aware of any schools that currently plan to provide RU-486, but stressed that because some universities’ health services facilities are connected to university medical centers and medical schools, this position might change.

According to The Harvard Crimson, both Harvard University Health Services and Dartmouth College are considering offering RU-486 alongside ECPs.

Princeton have no plans to offer administer the drug, according the Daily Princetonian; Brown – according to the Brown Daily Herald – has no plans as of yet.

Student reaction to the news that the Gannett will not offer RU-486 has been positive. “I don’t see anything wrong with that policy, because Gannett doesn’t provide abortions at all and Ithaca does have Planned Parenthood; there is an abortion provider here,” said Leah Laben ’03. “I don’t see why Gannet should provide it.”

Michael Capellupo Gurzo ’01 felt Gannett still has a certain obligation to those it refers. “It makes sense that Gannett doesn’t provide abortions, but it would be good if Gannett could keep track of health issues regarding the use of this pill by those it refers.”

Some student leaders, however, have voiced opposition to the emergence of the drug.

“On October 3rd, the college republicans adopted a platform that supports the republican national committee platform on abortion,” said Joseph J. Sabia grad, chancellor of the Cornell Review and member of the board of directors of the College Republicans.

“It supports, as does the platform, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and returning the issue to the states as a point of federalism, however it made an exception to save the physical life of the mother,” Sabia added.

“We have taken the position that Gannett Health Center should not distribute the so-called morning after pill or RU-486 to students … In contrast, services like Birthright, a pro-life faith based organization in Ithaca, do a wonderful job,” Sabia concluded.

“The Cornell Democrats, along with the Democratic National Committee, wholeheartedly support full reproductive rights for all women,” said Josh Roth ’03, publicity director of the Cornell Democrats.

“We also support the Gannett Health Center in all of their efforts to disseminate information to members of the Cornell community regarding issues pertaining to their reproductive health,” added Roth.

Roth stressed that “we support choice in reproductive health and we have members in our party who disagree on this very sensitive issue, perhaps that’s one of the greatest strengths of the democratic party on campus and nationwide.”

Archived article by David Turkel-Parrella