News Articles

House votes to block funds for approval of abortion drugs

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives again has adopted a measure to block the federal government from approving abortion drugs, even as RU 486 nears legal availability in this country.
As it did last year, the House passed an amendment by Rep. Tom Coburn, R.-Okla., that would prevent the Food and Drug Administration from using federal funds for the testing, development or approval of any abortion-inducing drug.
The measure, which again was attached to the agricultural appropriations bill, passed this year by only a 217-214 margin. Last year, the House voted 223-202 for the amendment.
While the provision would block funds for all drugs intended to induce abortions, its immediate target is the French-developed RU 486. In March, it was reported The Danco Group, a New York pharmaceutical company with the United States license to RU 486, expected to have the abortion drug on the market by the end of 1999. Danco is working with the FDA for final approval, according to the report.
If it is to block approval of RU 486, the House will have to convince the Senate, something it was unable to do last year. The Senate did not include the amendment in its variation of the spending bill, and it was removed by the conference committee named to work out differences in the versions.
Coburn, a physician and a Southern Baptist, called the use of federal funds to develop abortion-inducing drugs “unconscionable.”
“The mission of the FDA is to promote health and protect life, not to facilitate the taking of life,” Coburn said in a written release. “Congress should be seeking alternatives to abortion rather than making abortion on demand more accessible. Abortion drugs not only kill children; they have terrible side effects for the women who use them.”
A link between abortion-inducing drugs and the development of breast cancer in women suggested in some research should be studied before new kinds of abortion are approved, he said.
Abortion advocacy organizations such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League decried the House action, but pro-lifers applauded it.
The vote “is good news for everyone except the most radical pro-abortion advocate,” said Southern Baptist bioethics specialist Ben Mitchell. “The public should not foot the bill for abortion drugs. In fact, the notion that the FDA would use tax dollars to help get to market drugs which kill unborn children is grotesque. That would be like using tax money to develop more accurate weapons to be used in drive-by shootings.”
Mitchell is a consultant with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
RU 486, also known as mifepristone, is used with a prostaglandin, misoprostol, to induce abortion normally in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone causes the lining of the uterus to release the baby, who usually suffocates or starves to death. Misoprostol, taken two days after mifepristone, causes the uterus to contract, expelling the child’s body.
Pro-life organizations have long fought against RU 486’s introduction in the United States, but the abortion drug has been moving toward widespread availability since President Clinton took office more than six years ago. That opposition and mistakes by the drug’s sponsors reportedly have helped prevent RU 486 from being available so far in this country.
Danco announced last year it had finally found a manufacturer but has declined to name the company. In 1996, the FDA declared RU 486 safe and effective but has withheld final approval pending examination of the manufacturer.
In the 18 months before March of this year, more than 3,000 women in this country used RU 486 in a special, unadvertised research program sponsored by Abortion Rights Mobilization, The Washington Post reported. The program, which was approved by the FDA in 1997, was conducted at 15 sites, according to the report. During the program, doctors reduced the previously approved dosage from 600 to 200 milligrams and the number of visits to a physician’s office from three to two, The Post reported. They also allowed women to take RU 486 vaginally at home rather than orally in an office, according to the paper.
Tests using RU 486 and misoprostol were performed on more than 2,100 women at 17 U.S. sites during 1994 and ’95, but the results were released only in 1998. The trials showed the two-step method successfully ended in abortion for 92 percent of women in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. It was successful 83 percent of the time in the eighth week and 77 percent of the time in the ninth week.
Pro-lifers have warned RU 486 not only kills a child but also poses a threat to the physical and psychological health of women. The tests in ’94 and ’95 showed 51 percent of women aborted after they left the clinic.
In late 1990, Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, joined 10 other pro-life leaders in traveling to Europe to inform Roussel Uclaf, the French manufacturer of the pill, and its German parent company of American opposition to the introduction of RU 486 into this country.
Two days after he took office in 1993, Clinton issued a directive clearing the way for importation of the abortion pill into this country. In 1994, Roussel Uclaf donated the U.S. patent to a New York-based nonprofit group.
RU 486 is commonly used in France, Great Britain, Sweden and China, according to The Post, which cited The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization.