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Not able nor would he seek to overturn RU 486 approval, Bush says in debate


WASHINGTON (BP)–Republican candidate George W. Bush said in the first presidential debate Oct. 3 he would not seek to rescind the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug RU 486 if he is elected nor does he believe he would have the authority to do so.

Although Bush said he was “disappointed in the ruling,” the governor of Texas told moderator Jim Lehrer, according to a transcript by The New York Times, “I don’t think a president can unilaterally overturn it.”

He would not attempt to have his appointees to the FDA evaluate the ruling, Bush said. “I think once the decision’s been made, it’s been made, unless it’s proven to be unsafe to women,” he said.

Abortion “ought to be more rare in America. And I’m worried that that pill … will cause more people to have abortion,” said Bush, who declared during the debate he is pro-life.

Bush’s comment he would not challenge the FDA decision is sure to disappoint many pro-life advocates. The pro-life movement responded with deep displeasure when the agency announced its approval of the abortion drug Sept. 28.

A president, however, is limited on what he can do about a FDA decision with which he disagrees, a pro-life spokeswoman said.

Her understanding is he “can’t just walk in the door on January 20” and ban RU 486, said Laura Echevarria of the National Right to Life Committee. If the negative health effects to women are greater than expected or if the FDA discovers it was not given thorough information, the agency could review the approval process, thereby jeopardizing RU 486, she said.

Vice President Al Gore, meanwhile, affirmed his support for the FDA’s decision and for abortion rights in general during the debate in Boston.

Abortion “is a very important issue, because a lot of young women in this country take this right for granted and it could be lost,” Gore said. “It is on the ballot in this election, make no mistake about it.”

While the Democrat said he does not favor a litmus test for judicial appointees, Gore said his choices for the Supreme Court and other federal judgeships would “very likely … uphold Roe v. Wade,” the 1973 opinion striking down all state laws against abortion and establishing the practice as a constitutional right.

Bush said he had “no litmus test on that issue or any other issue.” He will name justices and judges who “will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy.”

The makeup of the Supreme Court related to the abortion issue has become a hotly debated topic in the campaign because it is expected as many as four justices may retire during the next administration.

The next president should promote a culture that respects and protects life, Bush said. People at both ends of life should be protected, he said.

“As a matter of fact, I think a noble goal for this country is that every child, born and unborn, ought to be protected in law and welcomed into life,” the GOP candidate said. “But I know we’ve got to change a lot of minds … before we get there in America.”

There needs to be a ban on partial-birth abortion, Bush said. Partial-birth abortion is a grisly method performed on a nearly totally delivered child normally in the fifth or six month of pregnancy.

Bush also said those who disagree on abortion should find “common ground on issues like parental notification or parental consent.”

RU 486, also known as mifepristone, is used with another drug to induce abortion normally in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone, which will use the trade name Mifeprex in this country, causes the lining of the uterus to release the baby, who usually suffocates or starves to death. The other drug, misoprostol, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the child. Women return to the doctor’s office about 14 days after taking mifepristone to determine if the abortion has been completed.

Under the FDA’s guidelines, RU 486 will not be available in pharmacies but from doctors who meet some minimal qualifications.

Abortion was one of the topics in a 90-minute debate that also included discussions on such issues as taxes, prescription drugs for senior adults, Social Security, education and the military.

The final two presidential debates are scheduled for Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Oct. 17 in St. Louis. The debate between vice presidential contenders Dick Cheney of the GOP and Gore’s running mate, Joseph Lieberman, will be Oct. 5 in Danville, Ky.
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