FIGHTING RU-486 by Phyllis Bowman
1992 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passing of the British
Abortion Act of 1967 -- without doubt the most sordid event in the history
of my country. Not only has it resulted, so far, in the deaths of over 3-
1/2 million unborn children killed by doctors in Britain, but it has been
used as the model to spread abortion legislation throughout the world,
primarily through the British Commonwealth, in order to reach Third World
countries as well as through English-speaking nations.
So it is little wonder that the population lobby-- aiming at the Third
World--should attack with such ferocity in 1967 (using American money,
incidentally, to get the Bill on the Statute Book) and again, last year,
when they fought for widening the law to allow abortion up to birth on
grounds of handicap and fought for an amendment which could be used to
allow RU-486 abortions to be carried out through doctors' surgeries, rather
than only in licensed clinics and hospitals.
The leaders of all three major political parties in Britain are anti-life,
and from the outset the Government showed its determination to license RU-
486--to the point that as early as April of 1991 the Department of Health
circulated to every doctor in the country a new Notification Form for
abortion, which included a section for women aborted by use of an anti-
Now, the main such drug available is RU-486, and at that stage the British
Medicines Control Agency (our licensing body) was--supposedly-- only
halfway through deliberations as to whether or not it was safe enough to
market. One can only conclude, therefore, that to risk the costs (and the
scandal) involved in producing and circulating a form which by all normal
counts might be erroneous, the Department of Health must number officials
with a gift for prediction which would be the envy of astrologers anywhere
in the world!
Roussel Uclaf, however, also appears to have had a pretty hot line in
predictions. For although no advance information is supposed to be given,
the company succeeded in hitting on the right date as to when they would
receive the license to market their drug; they managed to organize a whole
series of seminars around the country to coincide with it. Indeed, on the
very day they were given the license, they were ready to circulate every
gynecologist in Britain, informing them of the seminars, the first of which
was dated for only about a fortnight later.
This stretches credulity beyond all reasonable bounds when one realizes
that the license was granted within ten months almost to the day, the
shortest possible time for the Medicines Control Agency to consider an
application--IF they raise no queries whatsoever with the pharmaceutical
company concerned. Thus, a pro-life MP (reeling from the speed at which the
license had been granted) tabled a series of questions in the House of
Commons which established that last year 71 new drugs and 657 established
drugs had received licenses within an average time of 19 months each
(unless referred to a Special Committee when it took 23 months). In other
words Roussel Uclaf received the license within half the average time and
with no questions being asked regarding possible ill effects, despite the
great concern expressed by reputable researchers throughout the world.
In the meantime, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children had
arranged deputations to visit Roussel Uclaf in Paris and its parent
company, Hoechst, in Frankfurt. Our delegation included twelve
organizations, covering the full range of Christian churches as well as
representatives from all the major Islamic bodies, which are of increasing
importance in Britain, as their community is now around the two-million
Hoechst was obviously surprised by the strength of the delegation and
stated categorically that they had been totally misled about the situation
in Britain, about the public reaction to abortion and to the RU486 drug in
particular. They urged that we should meet with Roussel Uclaf
representatives, who, they insisted, would have the final say.
Our reception in Paris was completely different. The Roussel Uclaf
representatives insisted they had been assured by our Government that we
were totally unrepresentative of the British public. Our whole delegation
burst out laughing, when they named their informant as the Rt. Hon. Kenneth
Clarke, one of our most extreme and most unpleasant anti-life MPs, who was
appointed by Margaret Thatcher (equally anti-life) as Secretary of State
for Health to "steer" through a law allowing human embryo experiments and
abortion up to birth for the handicapped.
We left Paris feeling it was obvious that Roussel Uclaf had been promised
their license. It was subsequently granted at the end of July. However, the
data issued with the license did include two contra-indications for the
drug: ectopic pregnancy and smoking.
Members of Parliament, therefore, wrote to every District Health Authority
and every NHS Hospital Trust pointing out the dangers of RU-486 and
stressing that they could find themselves paying millions of pounds in
damages to women or children harmed by RU-486, particularly as Roussel
Uclaf admitted the possibility of complications, including teratogenicity.
The reaction of both the Trusts and the Health Authorities was quite
amazing. The vast majority agreed to circulate the MPs submission to all
their executive members and gynecologists, and a very considerable number
openly stated that they, too, were concerned about the possible dangers of
Within a short time we heard that Roussel Uclaf had written to every
gynecologist in Britain and that the main group supporting the use of RU-
486 (the Birth Control Trust) had written to every District Health
Authority and NHS Trust, seeking to undermine the MPs' letter. It was quite
clear that we had rattled the abortion lobby.
We did not realize to what extent, until early in November. when the
Department of Health announced it had changed plans regarding RU486.
Whereas originally they had decided that for safety it should only be used
in NHS hospitals, they had now concluded it should be licensed for use in
Private Clinics to give women "the choice" between surgical and
pharmaceutical early abortions.
That same day, Roussel Uclaf admitted that "sales had been poor;" only
twenty British NHS hospitals had placed orders for the drug-- which is
Private clinics, however, like parting with money even less than NHS
hospitals. The only really safe way to ensure that a woman is not suffering
from an ectopic pregnancy is to carry out an ultrasound scan.
Furthermore, while some may be given the drug in a hospital or clinic, many
actually abort at home, usually in the toilet, and the remains are flushed
away. Instructions to take the "products" from the abortion to hospital
when they return for examination are largely futile, and the only safe way
to ensure that the abortion has been completed is by a second scan. This
would make the whole procedure more expensive than a surgical abortion, as
has already been announced by one group of clinics in Britain.
Pro-life MPs will, of course, write to all licensed clinics making this
clear. We can only wait to see their reaction.
In the meantime, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and pro-
life MPs are determined to support the cases of women and babies who are
handicapped as a result of exposure to the drug.
Indeed, the most effective way to fight the drug is by hitting at the
purses of Hoechst and Roussel Uclaf, which is a direct challenge to every
pro-lifer worldwide, ensuring an international boycott of their products.
SPUC has already initiated this in Britain, and I am confident that Human
Life International will use its worldwide contacts to bring home to "the
death peddlers" of Hoechst and Roussel Uclaf what their abortion drug will