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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 07:06 GMT
US abortion pill under attack
Anti abortion campaigners
Anti-abortion campaigners object to the drug
Republican politicians in the United States have taken steps to restrict access to an abortion pill which was authorised last year.


Today members seek to restrict use of mifepristone. Tomorrow it will be the birth control pill. Enough is enough

Jatrice Martel-Gaiter
Two legislators, Senator Tim Hutchinson and Representative David Vitter, have introduced a bill which would require doctors to meet a number of strict standards before they could prescribe the drug, known as RU486 or mifepristone.

The pill, which is used for the termination of pregnancies at an early stage, was given approval last September.

President George W Bush, who made his opposition to abortion an election issue, said at the time that authorising the pill was wrong.

Correspondents say abortion is one of the most divisive issues facing Mr Bush's administration.

The new bill has been condemned by women's rights activists.

Health concerns

Jatrice Martel-Gaiter, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington told the Associated Press: "Today members seek to restrict use of mifepristone. Tomorrow it will be the birth control pill. Enough is enough."

Mifepristone
Mifepristone blocks a hormone needed to sustain pregnancy
But the legislators who introduced the bill said that they were merely defending women prescribed the drug.

"The least we can do is ensure that this drug does not endanger the health of the mother," Mr Vitter said.

Mifepristone is controversial because it can induce abortion within the first 49 days of pregnancy without the need for surgery.

There have also been some concerns over its side-effects, which include heavy bleeding and nausea.

The drug was first launched in France over a decade ago, and is currently available in 13 countries across the world.

Studies have shown that the pill, which works by blocking a hormone needed to sustain pregnancy, is 95% effective.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 | Health
'Abortion causes foetal pain'
19 May 00 | Health
Chemist morning-after pill closer
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