Clear thinking on RU486

The abortion drug RU486 has caused quite a stir lately. With so much debate on the issue, the Federal Government recently held a public inquiry into the drug, culminating in a vote in both Houses of Parliament. As a result of the February vote, the decision to import RU486, also known as mifepristone, has been taken out of the hands of the Health Minister and transferred to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Australia’s drugs regulator. Until this time, it had been in a “restricted goods” category by the TGA, since 1996.

And for good reason: it is a dangerous drug, both to women and certainly to the unborn child. The truth is, the French multinational drug company, Roussel Uclaf, and more recently, US-based Danco Laboratories, have been getting rich from it, while pro-abortionists do not want the dirty little trade secrets about this drug to get around. RU486 is quite literally a killer.

Because the drug is effective only around 50 per cent of the time on its own, it is often taken in combination with a second drug, a prostaglandin (PG). But prostaglandins are extremely dangerous, often leading to blood loss and damage to the uterus.

And RU486 is a complex chemical molecule which affects a woman’s reproductive system, her cardiovascular system, and even her central nervous system. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has registered over 600 adverse reactions to RU486, many requiring hospitalisation and surgery. In 2004, the FDA released a statement: “FDA and Danco Laboratories have received reports of serious bacterial infection, bleeding, ectopic pregnancies that have ruptured, and death, including another death from sepsis that was recently reported to FDA.”

Because these drugs have so many harmful side effects, often other drugs are taken, such as narcotic analgesics, which also carry further risks. Women should not be taking such dangerous chemical cocktails.

Indeed, even the Chinese, who may not exactly be the world’s leaders in safe medical practice, have had second thoughts. The drug had been available there since 1992, but it lead to a huge increase in abortions, and health officials became concerned that the drug could lead to infertility and other complications. Interesting concerns those, given China’s one-child policy. But in 2001 China banned all pharmaceutical sales of RU-486!

But it is the unpleasant – and often covered up – fact that women die when using RU486 that needs to be stressed. At least ten women have died from the drug so far, including several recent deaths in the US.

The academic journals are full of articles warning about the health risks. As but just one recent and representative example, see the research article “Analysis of Severe Adverse Events Related to the Use of Mifepristone as an Abortifacient,” by Margaret M Gary MD and Donna J Harrison MD, published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 28 December 2005.

Because of these health concerns some leading feminists and pro-abortionists such as Dr Renate Klein of Deakin University are totally opposed to the importation of RU486. Even Germaine Greer is opposed to it. Thus this is not just a pro-life versus pro-choice battle, but a debate about medical health and human rights.

But it is not just the many health risks to women that is at issue here. There of course is also the death of the unborn baby.  Proponents of RU486 deceptively speak of it as “preventing pregnancy” or as an “emergency contraception”. But a new life has already begun. What RU486 does is prevent it from following its normal path of gestation, from implantation to birth.

More specifically, the drug stops the action of progesterone which is naturally produced in a woman’s body and is essential to establish and maintain a pregnancy during its early stages.

It is no wonder many are calling RU486 a “human pesticide”. But human beings are not pests, and no moral justification can be given for taking the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable members of the human family.

Political background

As mentioned, in 1996 it was decided that RU486 should be given restricted status because of its health risks. This arrangement, initiated by then Independent Senator Brian Harradine, was nothing new. Abortion drugs have always been prohibited imports unless an exception was given by the Department of Health.

And bear in mind that the amendment, as put by Senator Harradine, was supported by both major parties, and even the Greens and Democrats. Thus all sides of Parliament agreed that such a dangerous drug needs careful scrutiny, and therefore it is fitting that it is the Health Minister of the day – currently Tony Abbott – and not nameless bureaucrats at the TGA, who must make the decision based on the best scientific and medical information at hand. And that information still tells us to say no to RU486.

Yet proponents say that rural women especially should have access to the drug because it is harder for them to get to medical centres. But this drug is no quick fix. It can take up to five visits to a specialist centre and doses of up to five drug combinations.

Future prospects

In spite of the many real concerns about RU486, and the need to safeguard women by keeping the decision about its importation in the hands of the Health Minister, the Federal Parliament recently voted to give that decision-making power to the TGA.

That this is a troubling and risky move can be seen by a similar episode concerning the TGA. Several years ago it approved the morning-after pill, another abortifacient. Although the manufacturer said this should only be available by means of a doctor’s prescription, within 12 months the TGA removed this restriction, and allowed it to be sold over the counter.

Since then a number of reports have documented the abuse and misuse of its sale in this manner. Yet nothing has happened, simply because the TGA is an unaccountable body, answerable to no one. At least if it were still in the hands of the Health Minister, there would be some accountability.

Thus this dangerous drug may now soon be imported, not only risking the lives of women, but adding to our dreadful abortion toll.

As a nation we continue to move in a dangerous direction. Healthy nations respect human life and seek to protect the vulnerable. Unhealthy nations do not. As one Federal MP said in an email to me after the vote, “I despair that we are a nation that exterminates 1,000,000 of its potential citizens every decade seemingly without batting an eyelid.  At the same time we make a great deal of fuss about the death penalty for drug smugglers responsible for inflicting unbelievable harm on others. I don’t know Bill. Have I completely missed the point?”

No, this MP has not. But it seems that many other MPs have. The point is, we should do all we can to fight for the rights of the unborn. This is a battle that we have unfortunately lost. But the war is not yet over, and we must redouble our efforts to stand up for life.

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One Reply to “Clear thinking on RU486”

  1. Bill, the battle is not lost! Even one baby’s life saved is an amazing victory! Small steps along the way is all we need! God will win this battle!
    Jane Byrne

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