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Bill would set requirements in order to prescribe RU 486

WASHINGTON (BP)–Legislation to protect women who take the abortion drug RU 486 was introduced in Congress Feb. 6.

The RU 486 Patient Health and Safety Act would require doctors who prescribe RU 486 to:

— Be certified to read ultrasounds to date pregnancies and identify ectopic pregnancies.

— Have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in case of emergencies.

— Be trained and legally authorized to perform abortions.

— Be trained in a FDA-approved course to administer the drug.

“Quite simply, the bill codifies standards considered by the FDA prior to the approval of RU 486, but which were evidently dropped under intense political pressure from the abortion lobby,” said Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R.-Ark., in a written statement. “The standards FDA approved are inadequate and are less restrictive than many of those found in Europe, where this drug has been legal for several years.

“The FDA must ensure the safety of all drugs it approves, and RU 486 is no exception.”

Joining Hutchinson as a chief sponsor of the legislation is Rep. David Vitter, R.-La.

RU 486, also known as mifepristone, is used with another drug to induce abortion normally in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone, which uses the trade name Mifeprex in the United States, causes the lining of the uterus to release the baby, who usually suffocates or starves to death. The other drug, a prostaglandin, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the child.

The FDA approved the abortion pill in September after a controversial effort of nearly eight years. On his second full day in office in 1993, President Clinton initiated the process to drop the import ban on the drug. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and other pro-life organizations had fought against RU 486’s introduction into this country even before Clinton’s action.

Pro-lifers have warned RU 486 not only kills a child but poses a threat to the physical and psychological health of women. Clinical tests in 1994 and ’95 in this country showed the two-step method ended in abortion after women left the clinic in 51 percent of the cases. Side effects in the trials included severe bleeding, severe cramping, vomiting and nausea.

Recent developments could prove problematic for RU 486. In a confirmation hearing in January, Tommy Thompson, now secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, signaled he would review the FDA’s approval of the drug. The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating the FDA’s approval process, according to The Weekly Standard magazine.

In addition, the company that manufactures cytotec, the prostaglandin involved in the abortion process, has warned doctors about using the drug in such a manner. Searle sent a letter to 200,000 health-care professionals reminding them it has not studied and the FDA has not approved cytotec as an abortion-inducing drug, The Weekly Standard reported. Cytotec is approved for treating stomach ulcers. It carries a warning the drug can induce labor in pregnant women and cause uterine rupture, according to the report.

After the Searle letter was sent, nearly half of the hospitals in the country told doctors to halt off-label use of cytotec, The Weekly Standard reported, citing a survey by the University HealthSystem Consortium.

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