RU486 GETS APPROVAL, 20 YEARS ON
Who remembers the extraordinarily heated debate over the so-called “abortion drug” RU 486 back in 2006?
Dr. Leslie Cannold does. She recalls it as “one of the few times we got to see what our leaders really thought of women and the issues critical to them.”
Dr Cannold is the president of Reproductive Choice Australia and today she is “thrilled” that the drug will become widely available to Australian women.
This morning the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved an application to import the drug by a company set up by the reproductive health group, Marie Stopes International. Soon it will be freely available, not just from a handful of doctors.
Dr. Cannold told the Hoopla: “Six years ago Australian women worked together to remove the ban on the drug and we are delighted that all women are going to have access to it.”
“What is really pleasing is that at last women in the bush will have access to safe abortion that they currently do not have.”
Health Minister Tanya Pliberseck said: ‘‘For more than two decades tens of millions of women throughout the world have used RU486. This listing means Australian women will have the same options as women in over 46 countries including the UK, USA, New Zealand and in Europe.”
A ministerial veto over the drug was lifted by Parliament in 2006 but the drug has had only very limited availability because just 200 individual general practitioners were granted permission to import and prescribe the drug.
Mifepristone and misoprotsol ( together known as RU486 or the ‘abortion pill’) can be used to end a pregnancy up to nine weeks. It works by blocking the action of progesterone to cause a miscarriage early in the pregnancy.
The next testing debate, says Dr. Cannold will come when the federal government moves the drug onto the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) making it cheap and widely available to Australian women.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said in a speech to the Australian Medical Association that RU486 will be treated just like any drug. It was unclear whether under a Tony Abbott-led government that would be a routine matter, Dr. Cannold added.
However, Dr. Cannold is ready for that expected debate with anti-abortion activists.
She says the big work wil be done in a campaign to end the stigma around abortion.
“We want people to sign a pledge that they will not shame women who have abortions and speak up, not be silent, when other people do.”
On September 30 a “flash mob” will gather at 11 a.m. in Melbourne’s CBD to promote the cause: “Abortion A Fact of Life: Let’s end the stigma!” You can register for that event here.
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