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Society's Choices: Social and Ethical Decision Making in Biomedicine
support, but some extended their efforts into the political arena, challenging the way in which both the government and the medical community were responding to the AIDS crisis.
The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power is one of the most visible and proactive of these groups, combining public protest, acts of civil disobedience, and media events with the more traditional political methods of lobbying and education to raise public awareness and change policies. ACT-UP is notable for its unprecedented success in changing federal drug development procedures to allow the early release of a promising new AIDS drug. Through careful organization, sustained contact with sympathetic elected representatives, and the acquisition of a well-deserved reputation for being knowledgeable and articulate on medical developments in AIDS, members of its Treatment and Data Committee gained standing to participate in pivotal discussions in NIH, FDA, and other forums. Their views influenced critical policy decisions concerning the research process for experimental drugs and set the stage for greater citizen involvement in the future in such decisions (Levi, 1991).
Abortion Grassroots Organizations
The National Abortion Rights Action League supports a woman's right to choose and has been vocal in its opposition to efforts to restrict that right. Although other women's organizations actively support the availability of abortion (e.g., National Organization of Women and the National Women's Health Network), no other has abortion as its raison d'être. NARAL publishes newsletters, rallies its supporters to public protests, lobbies representatives, and sponsors forums in which scientific, legal, and ethical scholars and legislators sympathetic to this cause present compelling arguments for policies that guarantee women's reproductive autonomy, including the continued availability of abortion and research into contraceptive technologies that make abortion less necessary. In 1991, NARAL sponsored a symposium on the federal ban on fetal tissue transplantation research at which participants decried both the policy itself and the tenuous linkage that DHHS had made between such research and a hypothetical increase in abortions (NARAL, 1991).
NARAL's antiabortion counterpart is found in the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), a pro-life organization that opposes abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide. NRLC supports abortion alternative programs involving counseling and adoption, provides ongoing public education programs, lobbies before congressional committees, and conducts research. The NRLC was instrumental in preventing RU486, a highly effective abortifacient, from being introduced into this country. Pharmaceutical companies have been very reluctant to conduct research on contraception, not