RU486 Abortifacient Drug

Author: Phyllis Bowman


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- progesterone.

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 mark.

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 the drug.

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 incredibly low.

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 cost them.