Bill Introduced to Restrict Use of the Abortion Pill
"A lot of members, who might otherwise vote for such things
as a ban on partial-birth abortions, have clear trouble with telling the FDA
what to do," explained Rep. Rosa DeLauro, (D-Conn.).
And some members of Congress would be deterred from voting for
the proposed bill because the drug also is being tested and used for the
treatment of breast cancer, brain tumors, and other illnesses, she said.
Since becoming available in November, about 100 abortion
clinics have begun offering Mifeprex to patients, according to the National
Abortion Federation, which represents approximately 400 clinics nationwide. The
drug also is approved in 17 other countries and has been used by more than half
a million women in Europe and millions of women in China.
Patients in the U.S. can get Mifeprex only from doctors that
have signed an agreement to follow the guidelines set by the FDA. Besides
requiring doctors to at least have access to an abortion specialist, those
guidelines also require regular checkups to ensure that the treatment worked
and that the women who took it did not suffer from excessive bleeding, a
complication that occurs in about 1% of patients.
FDA officials say these guidelines were based upon science
alone. FDA officials also say the drug was approved under the
"fast-track" process because the use of this mechanism gave the agency
the ability to control how the drug is prescribed.
But even the potential defeat of this proposed legislation is
unlikely to end the debate surrounding Mifeprex's approval. Besides challenging
the drug's safety, opponents of the drug also have raised questions regarding
Cytotec, a drug that must be combined with Mifeprex
to complete the abortion.
The legislation introduced last year aimed to restrict the use
of Mifeprex to specialists, such as ob-gyns, who could perform surgical
abortions and treat other complications. The measure failed to pass due in
large part to the argument that restricting its use to those specialists would
be tantamount to its withdrawal and would discriminate against women in rural
areas with limited access to specialists.
But supporters and opponents of Mifeprex agree that its
widespread availability would make abortion more accessible and more private
because women could then end their pregnancies at home rather than travel to an