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AS an experienced personal injury lawyer, I should have felt pleased about the Senate vote on the importation of the abortion drug RU486 into Australia as it has provided a bonanza of litigation in the US.

However, I feel great sadness as I read of the deaths in California of the four healthy young women who ingested RU486 and the follow-up, Misoprostol.

These women imagined this do-it-yourself abortion would solve their problems. Instead they died lonely, anguished, undignified deaths in the emergency rooms of hospitals.

Senator Lyn Allison, who accuses those opposed to RU486 of scaremongering, should try to visualise the experience of these women.

The emergency rooms of a major hospital are not pretty places and the waiting can be interminable.

Someone presents with vague abdominal pain, bleeding a bit but no fever . . . perhaps she is placed in a cubicle and told to wait her turn. That is no place to spend your last day of life.

I have been sent the complainants' briefs against Danco Laboratories Inc, distributor of RU486, filed by the relatives of Chanelle Marion Bryant and Hua Thuy Tran, two women who died allegedly after using this abortion pill.

However, legal victories will not bring loved ones back.

When Roussel Uclaf first announced production of the abortifacient RU486 (Mifeprex) in France, it was hailed by the media as a "holy grail".

Despite its many problems, abortion providers appear still to regard it as a great benefit and argue that politicians have no right to deprive women of it.

S ENATORS Nash, Allison, Moore and Troeth, who have pushed for the availability of RU486, should examine the money trail of what has happened in the US.

No reputable pharmaceutical company in America wanted to have anything to do with the production or marketing of RU486 (Mifeprex). It was left to the Population Council Inc (a powerful pro-abortion group) to obtain the rights from Roussel Uclaf to market the drug through a new shell company, Danco Laboratories Inc.

After intense pressure from the Clinton administration, the drug was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in September 2000, subject to a number of restrictions.

However, pro-abortion groups complained the restrictions would limit the accessibility of RU486. After an intense media campaign the FDA eventually crumpled.

Because Mifeprex on its own results in only 60 to 80 per cent abortions, the patient is advised to take a second drug, Cytotec (Misoprostol) 48 hours after taking Mifeprex.

This created a problem for Danco in that the manufacturer, R.G. Searle, has given repeated warnings that Cytotec is unsuitable for abortions. It is curious that the Australian Medical Association is pushing for this regimen, given that the manufacturer specifically opposes the use of Misoprostol for abortion. The doctors appear to be almost inviting legal action.

With the addition of Cytotec, the probability of abortion rises to between 92 and 95 per cent. The remainder need surgical abortions.

With all these hazards, it is hardly surprising the use of RU486 has been fraught with disasters. At least five women in North America have died. A Canadian woman died during trials of the drug.

The trials were promptly suspended and Canada has banned RU486. There have been 64 life-threatening events and 224 severe cases.

There has been a further investigation of RU486 by the FDA. A Bill, HR 1079 (Holly's Law), has been introduced by 79 sponsors in the US Congress to ban the use of RU486.

Prime Minister John Howard needs to allow far more time for MPs to learn about this drug.

B EFORE voting on RU486 today, the House of Representatives should await the results of the Danco cases, the FDA inquiry and the US Congressional debate.

On current information, any minister would be grossly negligent to allow the importation of RU486 as an abortifacient or to delegate decision-making to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The TGA effectively relies on drug companies for its income and there could be a conflict of interest in its decision-making process.





Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN