Bill Introduced to Restrict Use of the Abortion Pill
Feb. 6, 2001 (Washington) -- Some Republican lawmakers are once again
mounting an effort to restrict the use of the highly controversial abortion
U.S. Rep. David Vitter, (R-La.), and U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson,
(R-Ark.), on Tuesday introduced legislation that would require physicians
prescribing the drug to have previous experience performing surgical abortions.
The bill, similar to one introduced by Hutchinson last year, also would require
prescribing physicians to receive special training, be able to read an
ultrasound, and be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
"This bill seeks to ensure that the health of women who
take this drug will not be jeopardized due to the improper administration of
the drug by an inadequately trained health professional," said Hutchinson
at a press conference. "I have no doubt that if women were asked whether
their doctor should be required to be able to read an ultrasound, handle
complications, and get them admitted to the hospital in case of emergency, they
would not hesitate to demand those levels of competence."
"This legislation is about protecting women's health,"
Vitter said. "Last fall, the Clinton-Gore FDA caved into political pressure
from the abortion lobby and hurriedly approved the abortion drug without
crucial health protections for those who use it. Our legislation corrects that
Last September, the FDA approved RU-486, also called
mifepristone and sold under the name Mifeprex, under a set of rules most often
used for the "fast-track" approval of drugs to treat life-threatening
diseases, such as AIDS. The FDA also proposed, but then abandoned, the set of
restrictions outlined in the legislation proposed Tuesday.
But pro-choice forces say the bill is a thinly disguised effort
to chip away at women's right to choose.
"Claims that this legislation is motivated by a concern for
women's health are at best disingenuous, and at worst, dishonest," said
Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation,
following the Republican press conference.
Although the FDA considered similar restrictions, the agency
subsequently rejected them because they were medically unnecessary and
inconsistent with the way medicine is practiced in the U.S., Saporta noted. In
addition, she pointed out, the FDA did not abandon all of the proposed
restrictions. Doctors prescribing the drug are still required to be able to
complete a surgical abortion or at least have access to another qualified
Joining the National Abortion Federation in protesting the
legislation were several other members of Congress, as well as the National
Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood of America.
But despite warning that this legislation is a serious threat
and a signal of the current administration's intention to eventually outlaw
abortions, opponents of the legislation predicted that it has little chance of
passing the Senate, even if passed by the House, where antiabortion forces
enjoy their strongest support.