Not a Panacea
Barbara Seaman's "New Pill, Old Problems" (November 13) is refreshing.
All too many reports on RU-486 have claimed it to be a panacea.
But she did miss the forest for the trees.
There is no doubt that mifepristone is a welcome addition for the
nation's abortion practitioners like myself. Anything that adds
to choice adds to women's freedom. However, there are several considerations
that should be drawn from the clamor.
First, those of us in the abortion trade wonder if this is a step
forward at all. Mifeprex requires an added pill (misoprostol), at
least two doctor consultations, plus the post-abortal visit. The
patient also must return home for several days to judge the quality
of her hemorrhaging and cramping. Compare that to the present setup
where a woman can come in over her lunch hour, accept either a local
or brief general anesthesia, have a two- or three-minute procedure,
and return to her activities that day or the next morning--all at
half the cost of RU-486.
Second, RU-486 must not take away from all that has been accomplished.
Since Roe v. Wade, more than a million terminations are performed
yearly with the smallest complication rate for any minor surgery
in history, one of medicine's proudest moments. To feel the choice
movement must continually fix something that isn't broken falls
into the trap of the anti-choicers.
Third, and most important, France and the other countries where
mifepristone is available also have universal health care, something
America shamefully lacks. It is only a matter of time before the
abortion pill becomes accessible to the millions of women in the
United States without such coverage, and they will be left to their
own wiles in times of medical emergency or worse. For many women
abortion-denial is a microcosm of the lack of affordable health
care in America. That is the message of RU-486.
Don Sloan, M.D.
David Brower 1912-2000
David Brower died on November 5 at his home in Berkeley, California,
a few blocks away from the house where he was born in 1912. That
alone says a lot about who Brower was. He was a Westerner, and something
of a homebody. His life was rooted in place.
But Brower's vision was vast and encompassing. Although he was
one of the world's most accomplished mountain climbers (with 70
first ascents and a trek into the Himalayas while he was in his
seventies), he was one of first to get beyond the notion of wilderness
as merely an aesthetic landscape of alpine scenery, rocks and ice.
He connected the concept to ecosystems, those wild corridors of
life, and fought relentlessly and fearlessly to save those big blank
spaces on the maps.
His accomplishments are written on the landscape in the dozens
of wilderness areas and national parks he helped create: Kings Canyon,
North Cascades, Great Basin, Redwood, Point Reyes, Misty Fiords,
Glacier Bay. He kept dams out of Dinosaur National Monument, the
Yukon and the Grand Canyon. He battled nuclear power plants and
was one of the first to view the military-industrial complex as
a threat to the global environment.
The early conservation movement, led by the likes of John Muir
and Aldo Leopold, was imbued with a stern, almost misanthropic demeanor.
Brower humanized environmentalism. He knew that the war to preserve
wilderness couldn't be waged by an elite cadre of mountain climbers
and rich, white neo-transcendentalists. It would have to be a people's
movement. And Brower, more than anyone else, shaped the modern environmental
movement into a political force that reached across lines of class,
race and gender.
"When they win, it's forever; when we win, it's merely a stay of
execution. We've got to remain eternally vigilant." This was one
of Brower's favorite maxims. No victory can be taken for granted.
No inch of ground is forever safe. Yet for all the tragic battles
and losses that Brower witnessed, he never became embittered. Brower
had a Westerner's ingrained sense of optimism. He always maintained
faith that a new generation would come along with energy and vision
and determination to escalate the fight.
It's no coincidence that the last year of his life was one of
his most productive. He helped create a new and promising coalition,
the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, an unlikely
marriage of Earth First!ers and Steelworkers. Brower was in Seattle
last November, siding with the street warriors, denouncing the cops,
railing at the lords of international finance. He spoke with authority
about the betrayals of the Clinton/Gore administration. Shortly
before he died, he filled out his absentee ballot, voting for Ralph
Nader and a slate of Green Party candidates in California.
I last saw Brower in March in Page, Arizona at a protest on the
rim of Glen Canyon, overlooking that hated dam. Rightly or wrongly,
Brower felt a measure of guilt for the dam's existence. To keep
a dam out of Dinosaur National Monument, he had looked the other
way when the Bureau of Reclamation planned this monstrosity. Then
he floated down the Colorado and realized what a mystical place
would be lost. "Don't trade a place you know for one you don't,"
That's good advice for any political warrior. But Brower learned
his lesson and never stopped trying to right an old wrong. On that
day, the old fire was in Brower's eyes as he looked out not on that
wretched reservoir, but on the 500 Greens assembled on a weekday
in one of the most remote parts of the Southwest. He looked to the
future and a vibrant new movement that had staked its claim of resistance
in the very belly of the beast. "Never let them beat you down as
being doomsters or naysayers," Brower said. "Because if you are
against a dam, you're for a river. It's time to let this river run
free." [More about
Jeffrey St. Clair