by Steven Ertelt
February 15, 2006
Canberra, Australia (LifeNews.com) — Lawmakers in the Australian parliament approved a bill that would pave the way for legalizing the dangerous abortion drug RU 486 there. The drug has been responsible for the deaths of eight women worldwide and over 850 women have been injured by it in the U.S. alone.
The legislation strips pro-life Health Minister Tony Abbott of the oversight on allowing the abortion drug and give his authority to the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Parliament gave Abbot the power to disallow the drug in 1996 and the vote reversed that decision.
Abortion advocates were concerned that a flurry of last-minute amendments to the bill would scuttle it but they were defeated.
One of the amendments would have given parliament a veto power to overturn the decision. The amendment was sponsored by Liberal MP Andrew Laming, who admitted during the debate on the bill this week that he had performed abortions in Britain. It failed 90-56.
The measure was approved on a voice vote and an actual count of lawmakers wasn’t taken because it was clear those who favored the bill prevailed.
During the final debate, Prime Minister John Howard urged his colleagues to vote against the measure.
"To suggest that this drug RU486 is just another drug is patently absurd and I believe to treat it as any other drug is unsustainable,” Howard told parliament before the vote. "We are elected to make decisions on difficult issues. I will vote for the status quo.”
The abortion drug mifepristone won’t technically become legal until the TGA approves its use, but both sides in the abortion debate say that’s expected.
Abbot had been engaging in a frenzied 11th hour bid to turn out more votes against the bill.
He described how abortion advocates appear to be dismissing the nation’s high abortion rates as a "fact of life, almost by some as a badge of liberation from old oppressions."
"We have a bizarre double standard in this country where someone who kills a pregnant woman’s baby is guilty of murder, but a woman who aborts an unborn baby is simply exercising choice," he told the Morning Herald.
"[This drug] may indeed be no less dangerous to a woman, but it is absolutely lethal to a baby and that’s why this drug should keep the current status of special consideration," he added.
Australia has a population of 20 million people and about 80,000 abortions currently take place there.
The drug is currently legal in 35 nations across the world, including Britain, France, the United States, Sweden, Greece, Spain and New Zealand.