The Case for Small Government

A Libertarian Perspective on Economic and Social Policy

March 18, 2006

The Abortion Pill and the FDA

The FDA has announced it is investigating the safety of RU-486, the abortion pill, because of two recent deaths potentially related to its use. Some abortion opponents have suggested taking the drug off the market pending the review, while others have suggested banning RU-486 entirely.

Whether the two recent deaths merit investigation is unclear. The number of U.S. deaths attributable to RU-486 is seven over a period of six years, hardly an epidemic. And any reasonable assessment must acknowledge that surgical abortion and pregnancy carry risks as well.

In addition, the possibility of adverse side-effects is not sufficient reason to remove RU-486 from the market. Many medications carry serious risks, including death, yet they remain legal because their beneficial effects outweigh the negatives. If RU-486 has greater risks than previously recognized, the right response is to provide this information to doctors and patients.

This incident does illustrate the unintended side-effects of government intervention. If the FDA did not regulate which drugs can be sold legally, interest groups would have a harder time politicizing the availability of RU-486.


At 7:31 AM, Blogger Mike Huben said...

Come on now, this is just sophomoric.

There is no "unintended side effect" due to the FDA. Anyone with a smattering of historical knowledge knows that popular demand for government regulation of drugs is far older than the FDA.

INTENDED side effects of disempowering the FDA include patent medicine fraud, loss of information of effectiveness of ingredients, reduction in research into effective drugs, removal of ingredient listings and warnings from packaging, outrageous medical claims, increased ill health due to ineffective or harmful medicines, etc. We know these side effects will occur because they are historically common, and libertarians have no solution to preventing them. Historically, markets do not prevent these problems.

But the real reason this is sophomoric is the level of analysis. It closely resembles the introduction, 3 supporting facts, conclusion style of writing taught in junior high school. There is no effective analysis of competing claims, simply recitation of ideological propaganda.

I wonder who Prof. Miron is writing for. I feel sorry for them.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger James said...

"I wonder who Prof. Miron is writing for. I feel sorry for them."

I suspect his intended audience includes those who know, at least intuitively, how to use logic in thier thinking. Based on huben's first full para., I doubt that he's among this group. [The existence of demand for something doesn't prove that there are no unintended side effects.]

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