Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

RU-486 - a Pill, Not an Answer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

RU-486 - a Pill, Not an Answer

Article excerpt

IT all sounded so simple when abortion-rights advocates recruited Leona Benten to bring the unapproved abortion drug RU-486 into the United States. According to their plan, Ms. Benten would fly from California to England, where the pills are legal. Then she would fly back to New York, challenging the government's ban on the French drug. If all went as the group hoped, Benten, who is unmarried, would use the pills to end her unplanned pregnancy.

But nothing is ever simple when the subject is abortion. Customs agents confiscated the pills at Kennedy International Airport. Benten sued to get them back. Then, with one eye on the courts and the other on the calendar, she waited while judges all the way to the Supreme Court considered her case, ultimately ruling against her.

Every radical cause needs leaders who are willing to take risks and speak out for the changes they seek. In that sense, Benten is probably a suitable test plaintiff to challenge the US ban on RU-486. As a social worker and a committed feminist, she is intelligent and articulate. Calling herself the "front person," she says simply, "Somebody needed to do it."

But in another sense, Benten appears to be a less-than-suitable "somebody" if abortion-rights leaders hope to win support for their attempts to make the drug legal.

Although no outsider will ever know the anguish that probably went into Benten's decision to terminate her pregnancy, there is something cavalier and disquieting about the way her explanations come across in print. Her case promises to do little to bring reason to the shrill confrontation of picket lines.

Benten admits that this is her second abortion. The first, which took place nine years ago when she was 20, was a "much easier" decision to make, she has said, because she was young. Although she concedes that this year's decision was more complicated, she still considers herself unready - or at least unwilling - to take responsibility for a baby.

"I thought about having a child, and it just didn't make sense," she told The New York Times. "It just wouldn't work. The father is of a different culture. It was not possible to raise the child together, and it wouldn't be responsible to raise the child on my own, in my culture. …

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