Washington, DC -- The first national pro-abortion ad campaign for the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 is about to hit the nation's newsstands.
The National Abortion Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based association of abortion facilities, is paying for the ads. They are set to start running in July issues of top-selling magazines like Cosmopolitan, People and Vanity Fair. One magazine, Hearst Corp.'s Redbook, has refused to run the ad.
The ads show a picture of a crisply dressed woman gazing out a window. "You have the freedom to choose. And now, you have another safe abortion choice," the text says, directing readers to an information hotline the pro-abortion group operates. The ad refers to the dangerous abortion drug as "the Early Option Pill" or its generic name, mifepristone. It doesn't mention its brand name, Mifeprex, or the manufacturer, nor does it include a long list of possible side effects or other clinical data.
That the ad provides no information on the risks and dangers associated with RU 486 is of particular concern to pro-life advocates. The pro-abortion group defended their decision to leave out that information.
"This isn't a pharmaceutical ad," says Vicky Saporta, executive director of the federation. "We aren't a pharmaceutical company." The NAF says it didn't run the ad past the Food and Drug Administration and doesn't believe it requires FDA approval.
Redbook, at least so far, is the only magazine to refuse the ad, the federation says. Magazines including People, Vanity Fair, InStyle, Jane, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Fitness, Health, Self, First for Women, and Essence have agreed to run it, as have two other Hearst magazines, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, the federation says.
According to an e-mail the pro-abortion group received from a Redbook ad-sales representative, the magazine wanted to avoid provoking "negative reader and retailer reaction.
"While Redbook prides itself on an open dialogue about sex, we must also walk a tightrope to satisfy regional mores that if engaged would negatively effect our business model," the e-mail said.
Paul Luthringer, a Redbook spokesman, says in an e-mail, "Redbook enjoys the same rights as other magazines to carry -- or turn down -- advertising in its pages, depending upon whether the publisher feels it is appropriate for the reader."
The ads were paid for mostly with grants from private foundations such as the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the pro-abortion group says.
Mifeprex (RU 486) is distributed and marketed in the U.S. by Danco, a tiny, media-shy start-up company based in New York. It has chosen to concentrate its own ads for the drug at doctors, using direct mail and ads in medical journals. "We're focusing on getting information into the hands of health-care providers," says Heather O'Neill, a Danco spokeswoman.
NAF says it expects the ad, which will run from July to November, to reach 74% of women between 18 and 49. The group refuses to name the agency that created it. Saporta says they had hoped to launch the campaign as soon as the abortion drug became available in the U.S. in November. But raising money took longer than expected, she says.
It isn't clear whether the ads will actually spur sales or use of the dangerous abortion pill. Danco won't discuss sales figures, and no single agency or organization is tracking its use. Individuals dispensing it report that the number of women seeking early abortions with mifepristone is slowly but steadily rising. The National Abortion Federation says 200 of its 400 members are dispensing the new abortion drug.
Planned Parenthood of New York City says it completed 658 abortions with Mifeprex from December, when started giving it out, through April, at abortion facilities in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Earlier this year, the group spent $50,000 to advertise mifepristone on the city's subway lines. The ad had a single image of a woman's hand holding a pill. "The choice is in your hand," the ad said.
Pro-life advocates acknowledge that the more places that begin giving out the dangeorus abortion drug, the more difficult it will be to reverse the trend. "We realize that time is working against us," says Heather Cirmo, a spokeswoman for the Family Research Council.