January 21st 2006

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: B.A. Santamaria: the making of a political warrior

EDITORIAL: Unbalanced economy: the problems ahead

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The Coalition - a rocky road ahead for 2006

NATIONAL SECURITY: How Australia should fight terrorism

POLITICAL ISSUES: Muddled thinking in green politics and ecology

MEDICAL SCIENCE: D-I-Y abortion drug RU-486 endangers women's lives

CULTURE AND CIVILISATION: Western elites lack moral courage

The struggle against forgetting (letter)

Living standards and the labour market (letter)

A slogan for RU-486? (letter)

CINEMA: Paradise Now - Portrait of deranged killer as hero

CINEMA: C.S. Lewis tale brilliantly translated to big screen

BOOKS: JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH: His Life, His Politics, His Economics, by Richard Parker

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D-I-Y abortion drug RU-486 endangers women's lives

by Babette Francis

News Weekly, January 21, 2006
The controversial RU-486 drug could have lethal side-effects, writes Babette Francis.

A drug being promoted in Australia to induce at-home abortions could have lethal side-effects, according to overseas medical studies.

In July 2005 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would be investigating the serious adverse effects of Mifepristone (trade name Mifeprex, also known as RU-486), the drug recommended by many abortionists and abortion lobbyists as an at-home abortion kit.

On July 19, the FDA issued a public health advisory notice on the risk of sepsis or blood infection when using Mifeprex to induce abortion.

Ralph P. Miech, associate professor emeritus in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biotechnology at Brown University, has provided clear evidence that the drug causes conditions in which bacterial infections can take hold and become deadly.

Expels the dead embryo

During an RU-486-induced abortion, the first stage of the drug shuts off progesterone, which halts the flow of nutrition to the placenta and the child. The second-stage drug, misoprostol, causes contractions that expel the dead embryo.

Dr Miech shows that the anti-progesterone effects of Mifepristone also cause changes in the cervix that allow C. sordellii, a common vaginal bacteria, to enter the cervical canal. C. sordellii thrives in this low-oxygen environment and derives nutrition from the decaying foetal tissue.

Mifepristone, Miech says, also disrupts the immune system, which "impairs the body's ability to fight off C. sordellii and may help spread the bacteria's toxic by-products, a combination that sometimes results in widespread septic shock".

The resulting infection makes its way into the blood stream, becoming life-threatening.

The danger of the drug is increased because of a lack of the usual symptoms of infection such as fever.

On the same day the US FDA issued its advisory notice, the drug's manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, admitted that five deaths had occurred in women while using Mifeprex for abortion.

The family of Hoa Thuy Tran, a student who died after using RU 486, has filed a lawsuit against Danco Laboratories, claiming the company failed to disclose that the pills could cause infections leading to death and posed other risks.

Miech's findings are consistent with those of Frank Gentle, the supervising coroner in the case of Holly Patterson, the California teen who, Gentle said, died from septic shock after using Mifeprex abortion drugs.

The abstract of Dr Miech's work can be read in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy (September 2005) at www.theannals.com/cgi/content/abstract/aph.1G189v1

The pro-family organisation, Concerned Women for America, also reports that information it received under the Freedom of Information Act shows that out of approximately 600 case studies, the abortion drug caused 220 cases of haemorrhage that were either life-threatening or extremely serious.

In the US, it was found that prolonged heavy bleeding occurs in 8 per cent of applications, and some users have experienced blood loss requiring transfusions. Seventeen such women have had ectopic pregnancies.

Medical consultation is required to arrange prompt medical or surgical attention if needed, and to monitor for the possibility of serious infection.

The use of RU-486 to procure an abortion requires three visits to the doctor over two weeks. In about 7 per cent of cases, the drug does not work and a surgical abortion is necessary. In the majority of cases, when an abortion is induced, women will have to deal with the trauma of aborting alone at home, with all the risks of heavy bleeding and septic infection.

At a news conference on 17 May 2002, Dr Richard Hausknecht, medical director of Danco - the company which manufactures RU486 for the American market) - admitted: "It [RU-486] is not safer than a surgical abortion."

Feminist members of Australia's federal Parliament who are enthusiastically lobbying for the introduction of RU-486 want to assure voters that women in rural or remote areas will not be at risk because of any lack of medical services.

Paucity of country services

This is in stark contrast to the dirge we hear from both the medical profession and patients of the paucity of medical services in the country, the closure of country hospitals, the reluctance of doctors to work in country areas, and the coercion of immigrant doctors to work in rural areas as a condition of being allowed to work in Australia.

Can it seriously be argued that, as soon as RU-486 is legalised, we are going to find ready doctors and hospitals available on 24/7 standby all over regional Australia?

The same feminist MPs have also opposed Tony Abbott's modest proposal that some of the baby bonus be paid in instalments to mothers during pregnancy, and not just when they have given birth.

Such payments would no doubt help with budgeting for baby equipment, transport, etc.; but, because it might encourage some mothers to continue with the pregnancy rather than seek an abortion, the feminist imperative is to oppose such payments.

Feminists view pregnancy primarily in terms of the opportunity to abort, an abortion being a sort of feminist rite of passage.

News Weekly readers are urged to write immediately to Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello to prevent the use of the dangerous drug RU-486 in Australia.

  • Babette Francis, B.Sc (Hons), is co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc.

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