by Steven Ertelt
November 15, 2005
Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — Australian health minister Tony Abbott has ruled out lifting the current ban on the sale of the dangerous abortion drug RU 486. The decision came after a governmental agency advised that the ban should stay in place.
The Australian Health Department says lifting the ban would be dangerous for the health of rural women who may take the abortion drug, because a doctor’s supervision is required throughout the abortion process.
According to the department, as many as 8% of women might need urgent post-abortion medical care and getting them to a local hospital may be difficult in some parts of the country. Abbott also previously cited the deaths of women in the United States, Canada and elsewhere from the abortion drug.
Abbott said the department’s advice "provides no reasons for changing the long-standing practice . . . in regard to the availability to RU-486," according to the Advertiser newspaper.
"For some women seeking pregnancy termination, a medical abortion may be preferable, but is unsafe in circumstances in which appropriate supervision and follow-up may not be available," the health department wrote.
Chief Medical Officer John Horvarth issued the ruling, which abortion advocates opposed.
Caroline de Costa, an obstetrics professor at James Cook University in Cairns, told the Advertiser that the department failed to consult with rural doctors before reaching its decision. She said she wasn’t surprised that Abbott, who is pro-life, decided against lifting the ban.
The Australian Medical Association also disputed the decision and AMA president Mukesh Haikerwal called the abortion drug a "viable, useful and safe" alternative to surgical abortions.
The decision may not be the end of the debate, however, a Liberals in parliament may press for a measure to amend the Therapeutic Goods Act to remove the ministerial powers on the use of RU 486.
Labor leaders have already said they would allow a conscience vote on the issue.