Thinking Citizen Blog — Etienne-Emile Baulieu — “Father of the Abortion Pill”
Thinking Citizen Blog — Thursday is Health, Health Care, and Global Health Policy Day
Today’s Topic: Etienne-Emile Baulieu — “Father of the Abortion Pill”
Born to Jewish parents in Strasbourg in 1926, Dr. Baulieu might well have been sent to a Nazi death camp. But his parents changed their name from Blum to Baulieu and they fled south. As a teenager, he was a courier in the French Resistance. He joined the Communist Party but quit after the invasion of Hungary in 1956. Baulieu became an endocrinologist and chemist. His “unpregnancy pill,” mifepristone, also known as RU486, was approved in the US in 2000 and today “is used in half the pregnancy terminations in the United States.” Today, a few more notes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
RU 486 — MIFEPRISTONE — THE ABORTION PILL — ALTERNATIVE TO SURGERY
1. “When science meets women’s cause, it is irresistible” (Baulieu)
2. 97% effective during the first 63 days of pregnancy.
3. “Mifepristone is an antiprogestogen. It work works by blocking the effects of progesterone, making bot the cervix and uterine vessels dilate and causing uterine contraction.”
NB: “It was developed in 1980 and came into use in France in 1987… approved by Health Canada in 2015 and became available in Canada in January 2017.”
HOECHST, FORMERLY IG FARBEN, DECIDED NOT TO SELL IT IN 1988, BUT THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT INSISTED THAT IT DO SO IN THE INTEREST OF PUBLIC HEALTH
1.“The leader of the German company that was Roussel-Uclaf’s majority stakeholder, Hoechst AG, was a staunchly anti-abortion Catholic, Wolfgang Hilger.”
2. “To avoid controversy in meetings with company officials, Dr. Baulieu said, he emphasized a non-abortion-related property of an antiprogesterone compound: Because it would also block receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, it could theoretically treat burns, wounds, glaucoma and other conditions.”
3. Anti-abortion activists drew analogies between RU 486 and the cyanide gas produced by IG Farben that was used in Nazi death camps.
NB: “You are turning the uterus into a crematory oven.” The pill, opponent argued, “would kill more human beings than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong combined.”
THE SCIENCE OF IT — “A kind of biological sleight of hand” — the creation of an “impostor” — the lock and key and radio signal analogies
1. “The hormone progesterone is pivotal in pregnancy because it prepares the uterus to receive and hold an embryo. What if progesterone could be prevented from delivering its cellular messages?”
2. “In guinea pigs, his team identified receptor molecules that progesterone connected with to convey messages. Dr. Baulieu suggested trying to make a faux progesterone, an impostor to latch onto progesterone receptors so the real hormone could not.”
3. “He asked Roussel-Uclaf’s chemists to try grafting a cluster of atoms onto a molecule with progesterone’s structure so it would be similar enough to bind to the progesterone receptor.”
NB: “It’s like a key in a lock. You make a similar key that fits the lock. And then when progesterone would go to open the door, it can’t because it’s already blocked.” (Yvette Akwa, a researcher in Dr. Baulieu’s lab) “RU-486’s action is like jamming a radio signal.” (Baulieu)
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Whenever you are wrong, admit it. Whenever you are right, shut up.” - Ogden Nash
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