- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

A Virginia state delegate said he will use the legislature’s health committee to stop the distribution of an emergency contraceptive pill at state universities.
   
   Delegate Robert G. Marshall, a pro-life Prince William County Republican, has criticized the University of Virginia and nine other state-supported schools for dispensing the contraceptive RU-486 for 10 years before it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998.
   
   In a letter sent Monday to university President John T. Casteen, Mr. Marshall said the school was “conducting a medical experiment on UVa. co-eds for ten years.”
   
   “Co-eds should not be guinea pigs, period,” Mr. Marshall said yesterday. “This does not bode well for the confidence that Virginia has placed in their institutions of higher learning. Do you want to send your kid to a school that does this?”
   
   In his letter, Mr. Marshall demanded that Mr. Casteen divulge whether female students were informed that the pills were not FDA-approved or were warned about side effects, and whether the school conducted follow-up sessions to detect any long-term health effects.
   
   “If they did no follow-up of these women, then it’s a complete scandal,” he said yesterday.
   
   University officials said they will release a statement today in response to Mr. Marshall’s letter.
   
   Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore is reviewing issues raised by Mr. Marshall about whether dispensing RU-486 violates Virginia’s informed-consent law. The law requires abortion providers to give women information about abortion and alternatives 24 hours before a procedure and to obtain written consent from a woman before she undergoes a procedure.
   
   Mr. Marshall said he will take the issue to the General Assembly’s committee on Health Welfare and Institutions, led by Delegate Phillip A. Hamilton, Newport News Republican.
   
   Even if he is not able to produce legislation that would bar the so-called morning-after pill from state schools, Mr. Marshall said he intends to “clamp down” on university health procedures.
   
   Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Annandale Democrat, said she thinks the pill is needed at universities.
   
   “You’ve got to allow for the full range of circumstances, which is going to include young women who are having sex when they didn’t plan on having sex,” she said. “It’s not a decision I necessarily want to encourage, but I want people to be responsible about the decision to be a parent.”
   
   Mr. Marshall persuaded trustees at James Madison University to stop distributing the pill April 20, arguing that the pill constitutes a form of abortion because it keeps an egg from being released for fertilization or changes the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from growing.
   
   But the JMU student senate voted 54-6 to issue a bill of opinion supporting distribution of the pill. JMU’s trustees, the Board of Visitors, will consider the bill at a June meeting.
   
   Officials at other state-supported universities said last week that they have no plans to stop dispensing the pills.

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