By Cynthia L. Cooper
Thursday, May 18, 2000
The drugs that could change the terms of the abortion debate by permitting women to end pregnancies early still have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. A bill barring their approval is in Congress. Bush says he opposes them, too.
Time is running out for approval of mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486, a medication used to terminate pregnancies.
Congress will vote in June on an amendment introduced by anti-abortion Rep.Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) to prohibit the Food and Drug agency from testing,development or approval of any "abortifacient." Passed by the House in two prior years, President Clinton threatened to veto legislation with theCoburn amendment and the Senate refrained from supporting it.
Moreover, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has said that if elected he would likely oppose Food and Drug Administration approval of the treatment. Anti-abortion groups are strongly opposed to mifepristone, calling it "chemical coat hanger" (American Life League); "black death" (World Life League); and "human pesticide" (Focus on the Family).
With mifepristone stuck in the final round of the agency's review, the Feminist Majority Foundation is calling for an "expedited" process to assure that women will have access to the drug.
Mifepristone is part of a two-drug medical regimen that allows women to choose early abortions without a surgical procedure. The agency declared the regimen safe and effective in 1996. Mifepristone also shows great promise asa treatment for shrinking uterine fibroids.
New York-based Danco Laboratories LLC, a pharmaceutical company working in conjunction with the nonprofit Population Council, expectedgovernment approval in early 2000 for manufacture and distribution. Instead,in late February the Food and Drug agency asked Danco to supply more information.
"I don't think the commercial manufacturer will get approval thisyear. There are too many obstacles," said Lawrence Lader, president of