FDA to review RU-486

Does the abortion pill pose a serious health threat or is this just more political posturing?

Published February 23, 2006 10:00PM (EST)

Women's eNews reports that the Food and Drug Administration will begin a new review of the abortion pill, which some have blamed for the sudden deaths of four American women. The FDA will convene a scientific conference in May "over the safety of the drug regimen to terminate early pregnancy." The abortion pill, much like Plan B, has been steeped in controversy since its legalization in 2000. But with the death of four women in the past three years, all of whom died of toxic shock syndrome, both critics and supporters have clamored for more rigorous testing.

ENews reports that since the death of his daughter Holly, "Monty Patterson has been on a crusade to learn all he can about the safety of the abortion pill and to lobby for its removal from the U.S. market. Members of Congress are pushing for 'Holly's Law,' a bill now in a House subcommittee with nearly 80 co-sponsors that would suspend the drug's approval pending further investigation."

Reproductive rights advocates fear, justifiably so, that the FDA meeting could turn political and that "anti-choice forces will take the abortion pill down the same path as Plan B," which has more or less been stalled into oblivion despite "scientific evidence to its safety and efficacy. "

Although these deaths raise a giant red flag, as eNews reports, "leading abortion providers and health professionals, including Planned Parenthood, defend Mifeprex and the protocol used to administer it. More than 460,000 doses of Mifeprex have been sold to abortion providers in the United States since its approval by the FDA in 2000. Another 500,000 women in 35 countries have used the abortion pill to terminate pregnancies of up to eight weeks, but there is no data on fatality rates." As Broadsheet has made clear in the past, we support women's access to safe abortion. If a thorough, scientific investigation finds that the pill is unsafe, then it should not be on the market, but allowing ideology to supersede science, once again, is unacceptable.

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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