RU-486: Concern or Politics?



After a decade of debate, the FDA approved RU-486 on Sept. 28, 2000. On the pro-choice hand it was hailed as a major breakthrough in reproductive rights; on the other pro-life hand it was condemned as prescribed infanticide. A new area opened on the abortion battleground. With Roe V. Wade celebrating its 28th anniversary by hanging onto a thin thread in the Supreme Court, many pro-life advocates may have found another alternative to impede the abortion process: restrictions.

Just days after its approval on October 4th, RU-486 opponents such as Rep. Tom Coburn (R- OK) and Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) went to work, introducing identical bills in the House and Senate that would restrict the use of the RU-486 in this country. In his press release upon introducing his bill, Sen. Hutchinson questioned the Clinton Administration haste in getting the drug passed and pushed for a re-examination of the FDA approval: "I think all Americans should be concerned if politics are entering the FDA's drug approval process."

Rep. Coburn was heavily involved in RU-486's approval process. Twice before the so-called "Coburn Amendment" --which sought to prohibit the testing, development or approval of any drug that would be used to induce an abortion -- unsuccessfully passed before the House and unto the Senate before its final attempt last July.

Now that the FDA has approved the use of RU-486 in this country, Coburn and Hutchinson have shifted their focus to the issue of safety and the potential side effects of the drug. Both bills seek to restrict those who can prescribe RU-486, a drug that originally was to be prescribed by a local physician without the need of an abortion clinic visit. Instead of allowing physicians to decide on whether or not they would want to prescribe the drug, restrictive guidelines may be set to decide for them.

Concern is one thing; politics is another. Upon closing his press release, Hutchinson combines the two: "It's unfortunate that while [the Clinton] Administration said it wanted to make abortions more rare, the approval of RU-486 will surely encourage the taking of more lives and put women's health in danger."

Has concern replaced politics, or vice versa? One thing is for sure: the debate on Capital Hill has just begun.

Comments, questions or suggestions? What's your opinion? Email jsmith@issues-mag.com.

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