Abortion foes try to restrict RU-486

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Abortion foes in Congress introduced bills on today that would tighten standards for doctors administering the newly approved abortion pill RU-486.

Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., joined by Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., said the legislation was needed because the Food and Drug Administration, in setting rules for prescribing the drug, had “caved in” to abortion rights groups seeking easy access to abortion. “Congress now has the unenviable task of correcting the FDA’s mistake.”

Kate Michelman, president of The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said the legislation would impose restrictions that would “in effect negate the ability of doctors to prescribe this option for women.”

Coburn said he hoped to get the bill to the House floor in the final days of this session. Hutchinson was less ambitious, saying he was looking to have a hearing this year and pursue the issue next year.

The FDA approved RU-486 on Sept. 28, ending a 12-year debate in this country. It gives American women a pharmaceutical abortion method already in wide use in France, Britain, China and 10 other countries.

President Clinton praised the decision as “one of science and medicine,” but abortion opponents said it would encourage more women to end their pregnancies.

The FDA said that in order to prescribe the drug, doctors must be able to pinpoint the date of the pregnancy, rule out women with ectopic or tubal pregnancy, and be prepared to take surgical steps to complete the abortion or stop the bleeding in the case of problems. Also, women must sign a form agreeing to the necessary three doctor visits.

Coburn, a practicing physician who says he has delivered 3,500 babies and performed abortions to save the lives of mothers, said his aim was to better protect women who take the drug.

He and Hutchinson would require the prescribing physician to be legally empowered and trained to perform an abortion, properly trained in the drug’s administration and have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Michelman said the result would be to relegate RU-486 “to a non-option for women” because they would in effect only be able to obtain the pill from the declining number of doctors who perform abortions. “This is exactly the type of bill that George W. Bush would sign into law.”

Hutchinson accused the FDA of bowing to political pressure in adopting what he said were inadequate protections. “It is extremely disturbing that the FDA would switch gears in a matter of months and water down patient protections for American women just to see the RU-486 pill approved before the end of this administration.”

The pill was taken up in Tuesday night’s debate between presidential nominees Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. Bush. Bush said he was disappointed in the ruling but didn’t think the president could overturn it. Gore said the FDA had concluded the drug was medically safe and he supported its decision.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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