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LIFE DIGEST: Congress targets RU 486; mothers call for passage of interstate abortion bill; assisted suicide effort fails

WASHINGTON (BP)–Members of Congress again have targeted RU 486 for withdrawal from the United States market, with the case of a Filipino woman who died after taking the abortion drug, giving new evidence of its dangers.

If enacted, the RU 486 Suspension and Review Act would halt sale of the drug while the U.S. comptroller general reviews the process by which the Food and Drug Administration approved the abortion pill.

The bill is S. 511 in the Senate and H.R. 1079 in the House of Representatives. Sen. Jim DeMint, R.-S.C., is chief sponsor in the Senate, while Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R.-Md., is lead sponsor in the House.

Supporters have named the bill Holly’s Law in memory of Holly Patterson, 18, who died of a systemic infection in 2003 after obtaining RU 486 from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hayward, Calif. Patterson is one of three American women who have died after taking the abortion drug.

The latest international victim of the two-step drug regimen was reported Feb. 28 by LifeNews.com. The unidentified, 23-year-old woman was found in a pool of blood in her Talisay City, Philippines, home with her unborn child dead and partially expelled from her womb.

When people are told that the FDA approved a drug “that has killed three pregnant women and seriously injured dozens of other pregnant women in the United States, they’re shocked,” Bartlett said in a written statement. “They want to know why the FDA and Congress would allow a drug that kills and injures young women to stay on the market.”

RU 486, also known as mifepristone, is used as the first part of a process normally occurring in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. That initial action causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child. A second drug, known as misoprostol, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the baby.

According to the legislation, misoprostol would be considered misbranded if its label says it may be used to terminate a pregnancy. Misoprostol normally is used to treat ulcers.

Pro-life organizations, including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, fought introduction of RU 486 into this country for more than a decade before the drug was approved by the FDA in the final year of President Clinton’s administration.

MOTHER ENDORSES BILL –- Marcia Carroll told a House of Representatives committee March 3 proposed legislation might have protected her teenaged daughter from a coerced abortion.

Testifying to the Constitution Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, the Lancaster, Pa., mother said her daughter, who was pregnant at 14 years of age, had decided to give birth to her baby when her boyfriend’s parents intervened, the Associated Press reported. They took the teenager to a New Jersey abortion clinic and refused to return her to her home until she had an abortion, Carroll testified, according to the AP. The trip to another state avoided Pennsylvania’s parental notification law.

“No one should be able to circumvent state laws by performing an abortion in another state on a minor daughter without parental consent,” Carroll said, the AP reported.

Carroll endorsed the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which would outlaw the transportation of a minor by a non-parental adult to another state for an abortion when the girl’s home state requires parental notification or consent.

The bill is H.R. 748 in the House and S. 403 in the Senate, where it is named the Child Custody Protection Act. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R.-Fla., and Sen. John Ensign, R.-Nev., are the lead sponsors. The House bill has 118 cosponsors, while the Senate version has 24.

The legislation provides an exception when the girl’s life is endangered.

U.S. LACKS SUPPORT –- The United States halted its effort to pass a pro-life amendment at a United Nations women’s conference because of a woeful lack of support.

The U.S. delegation sought to amend a 10-year-old declaration adopted at a women’s conference in Beijing, China, to clarify that the document did not promote abortion rights. The proposed amendment said the statement did not recognize any new human rights, including abortion. Pro-life advocates had charged some organizations with using the declaration to promote abortion, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S. delegation withdrew the measure March 4 but said the attempt proved beneficial. Representatives of many countries had privately told the United States they believed the Beijing declaration did not establish a right to abortion, said Ellen Sauerbrey, head of the U.S. delegation, The Post reported.

“We have heard from countries that our interpretation is their interpretation,” Sauerbrey said, according to The Post. “So the amendment, we recognize, is really redundant, but it has accomplished its goals. We will be withdrawing the amendment, and we will be joining consensus today on the declaration.”

Among the 130 countries at the two-week meeting in New York, only Egypt, Qatar and the Vatican supported the U.S. amendment, The Los Angeles Times reported. It appears there will be a unanimous vote to reaffirm the Beijing document, according to The Post.

FAILED ASSISTED SUICIDE –- One Oregon man’s attempt to kill himself under his state’s physician-assisted suicide law went awry.

David Prueitt, 42, had lung cancer and took what was supposed to be a fatal dose of prescription medicine in late January, according to Newhouse News Service. He did not die, however, until Feb. 15 due to natural causes, Newhouse reported.

A promoter of assisted suicide confirmed the strange case.

“He did take a complete dose and slept soundly for 65 hours,” said Barbara Coombs Lee, co-president of Compassion and Choices, according to Newhouse. “Then he awakened [Feb. 2]. He suffered no ill effects. He was fully capable and competent -– and surprised.”

It is unclear why the medication did not kill Prueitt. Some of his family members, however, were upset he tried to take his life with the aid of a doctor. While his wife, Lynda, supports assisted suicide, his older sister, Janice Davidson, opposes the practice for religious reasons, Newhouse reported. She was stunned when she found out about his attempt, according to the report.

“I believe that if his family had been notified, David would not have done this,” Davidson told Newhouse.

Oregon is the only state to legalize assisted suicide.

Next fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that will determine if the practice will continue. The high court announced in February it would review a lower court decision that blocked a Department of Justice ban on the use of federally controlled drugs in assisted suicides.