Australia Parliament Vote on RU 486 Abortion Drug Likely Not til 2006

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 29, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Australia Parliament Vote on RU 486 Abortion Drug Likely Not til 2006

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 29, 2005

Canberra, Australia ( — Members of the Australian parliament will get a conscience vote on whether to allow sales of the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug, but the vote will probably not take place until next year.

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday told a meeting of MPs yesterday they would be given the conscience vote instead of being required to follow the party line. He also said lawmakers should agree with him to hold a vote next year or face the prospect of no vote at all.

Opposition and Australian Democrats say the debate and vote should take place in the week and a half remaining in the current session of parliament but a spokesman for Health Minister Tony Abbott said it would take place next year.

In 1996, the Australian government prohibited sales of the dangerous abortion drug, which has been responsible for the deaths of at least four American women, one in Canada and another in Sweden.

Responsibility for the legalization of the abortion drug rests with Abbott, who has denied allowing its sale after advice from the nation’s chief doctor. But lawmakers in Parliament want to legalize it and have called for legislation to take the authority from Abbott and place it in the hands of the legislature.

Abbot said he wouldn’t mind a vote about removing the authority but a vote on a second bill to legalize RU 486 should wait,

"Let the TGA Bill go through before Christmas because it is, of itself, an uncontroversial Bill, and then in the new year we can deal with any Private Member’s Bill or any Democrats Bill that comes forward dealing with the RU-486 issue," Abbott told the Courier-Mail newspaper.

However, Democrats leader Lyn Allison said she would not withdraw her legislation and pressed for a vote now.

"We are very pleased that the Prime Minister has announced a conscience vote and so we would like to proceed on that basis," Senator Allison said.

To bring up a vote now, the Democrats would need the support of at least one Government party senator, but that’s not likely with Howard’s decision to have the vote next year. Government MPs are all expected to back their Prime Minister’s decision.