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The last few days has seen Australian parliament locked in passionate and intense debate about whether politicians or the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Authority) should decide to make RU486 available to Australian women.

The TGA determines the safety of any drugs and pharmaceuticals.

Closely behind the push by some politicians to ban it is to get a foot in the door to put the right to abortion back on the table and overturn it. Another item on the agenda of GW Bush and the religious right.

The Australian community's concern has been that no politician should be solely responsible for making moral and ethical decisions.

Our current Health Minister - who is catholic - has [did have tfro] the power to overturn any senate decision.

I know this drug is available in the USA and I wondered if it had faced any controversy there, political or health wise, and if there any 'history' about RU486 anyone would care to share?

If the decision is made to ban the drug here, I believe it will create serious implications for the use of the drug in the US as well.

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News excerpt:
Friday February 10, 02:29 AM

RU486 bill headed for lower house

The emotional debate over RU486 will now move to the House of Representatives after senators overwhelmingly backed a bill stripping the health minister of his powers over the abortion drug.

After two days of personal stories and a rare conscience vote, senators supported a private members' bill - 45 to 28 - transferring the minister's powers to experts at the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Now for the bill to become law - overturning an effective ban on RU486 - it must be passed by the House of Representatives.

The bill's fate in the lower house is less clear. For one thing the chamber is significantly more male-dominated and the Senate vote showed the issue was split more along gender, than party, lines.

Health Minister Tony Abbott remains adamant that control over the drug should remain a ministerial decision.

"Whatever faults we have, I think our decisions are ... better decisions because we are subject to the kind of democratic accountability that officials aren't," he said.

Mr Abbott was unhappy with the Senate's decision to back the bill, describing it as a vote of no confidence in his capacity as health minister.

"I am disappointed with the vote," he said.

"The Senate has effectively voted no confidence in ministers and the parliament on this issue."

But he dispelled rumours that he may quit the health portfolio if the bill gets through the lower house as well.

The bill moves to the House of Representatives next week.

Opposition health spokeswoman Julia Gillard is optimistic that the bill will pass the lower house.

"The size of the margin in the Senate does bode well for the House," she told ABC TV.

"What the Senate has been doing is probably pretty indicative of what the House of Reps will do."

Ms Gillard also took note of the overwhelming number of women in the Senate who supported the bill.

"Of the 30 women in the Senate, 27 voted in favour," she said.

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Yes, but abortion pill fight isn't over
February 10, 2006

The House of Representatives will decide next week whether to strip the Minister for Health of his power of approval over the so-called abortion drug RU486 after the Senate voted decisively to end the effective ban last night.

Forty-five senators voted in favour of having the Therapeutic Goods Administration assess the safety of the drug and 28 against.

"It's a credit to politicians in the Senate that members listened not only to their conscience but also to the voice of the majority of Australians," said the Democrats leader, Lyn Allison.

"I believe it is a unique piece of Australian political history that a Senate-based, cross-party bill sponsored by women has passed."

If the bill is passed by the lower house next week, which is uncertain, it is unlikely RU486 would be available in Australia for several months.

Instead, the drugs watchdog would have to assess the safety of the drug once it received an application for a licence to import it.

With a high degree of public interest in the drug, any application would almost certainly be surrounded by controversy.

National advertisements for and against it were taken out in newspapers this week as both sides of the debate tried to win support for their positions.

Most of the Senate's time yesterday was spent debating the private member's bill, which was sponsored by four senators - the National Fiona Nash, the Liberal Judith Troeth, Labor's Claire Moore and the Democrats' Senator Allison.

But while arguments both for and against were passionate, senators did not delve into personal experiences as they did on Wednesday.

Many called for better sex education and counselling for women with unwanted pregnancies.

The former defence minister, Robert Hill, who voted for the change, said he would like to see "more and better sex education within schools and the wider community, easier access and increased availability of publicly funded counselling in sexual matters, and ready and confidential access to a range of contraception options from the age of sexual maturity".

Government senators proposed two amendments giving

Parliament greater scrutiny of any ministerial decision regarding the drug. Both were defeated.

The Nationals' Senate leader, Ron Boswell, said it was a "sad day for Australian society as the Senate has abrogated its responsibility to take the hard decisions".

The Liberal and Labor parties have allowed their members a conscience vote, but both leaders have already indicated how they will vote.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, said on Wednesday he favoured retaining ministerial approval over abortifacients.

The Opposition Leader, Kim Beazley, said yesterday that although he was personally opposed to abortion, he was in favour of changing the approval process for RU486.

"The public believes that it's a matter between a woman and her doctor," Mr Beazley said.

"This particular issue is a matter of what is the proper process for determining the availability of drugs."

<small>"Follow the grain in your own wood.” ~ Howard Thurman</small>

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I remember there being a big outcry about RU486 here. The perception is that you just pop a pill and that's that, which is far from the truth. I believe you can get the RU486 combination from any doctor who can establish how far along you are and treat you if something goes wrong, which is pretty dodgy. I don't think the demand for it is very strong here.

I think surgical abortions are much safer and much more reliable and less stressful/traumatic on the woman.
I appreciate the link Frenchy, thanks.

quote:
Blumenthal said the extensive counseling and repeat visits may put off some physicians. "I think there are always going to be some physicians . . . that will say, `Oh, I don't want to bother with this' because counseling and explaining are an integral part of the technique, of this method," he said.

Quite possibly. The drug isn't been touted as an easy-peasy alternative, people here are looking at the New Zealand 'model' which incorporates specially trained GPs and close, ongoing monitoring and counselling of women patients.

It is particularly useful as an alternative for women living in remote areas of Australia, as there is an ongoing shortage of GPs in our regional areas. They all want to live in the cities and coastal areas.

Our government has just increased it's overall spending on health, but as usual, regional (read indigenous) health is ignored. It makes me very depressed and angry.

And ashamed to be Australian (the famed land of give everyone a 'fair go') but where in reality the message ALL Australian governments send out seems to amount to they just hope indigenous Australians will die off. upset


upset
quote:
It is particularly useful as an alternative for women living in remote areas of Australia, as there is an ongoing shortage of GPs in our regional areas.


I'm a bit surprised by this. The RU486 combination of drugs requires the woman to see a doctor for 3 separate visits, as opposed to one visit for a surgical abortion, it's not as effective as the surgical procedure, and the side-effects are much more severe and longer-lasting. Seems like it would be much more difficult for women who live in remote areas.

Much applause that the counseling aspect of abortion isn't being ignored, though. And certainly women should have as many options on the table when choosing whether to keep or end a pregnancy.

What are your current abortion clinics like?
quote:
Originally posted by Frenchy:
quote:
It is particularly useful as an alternative for women living in remote areas of Australia, as there is an ongoing shortage of GPs in our regional areas.


I'm a bit surprised by this. The RU486 combination of drugs requires the woman to see a doctor for 3 separate visits, as opposed to one visit for a surgical abortion, it's not as effective as the surgical procedure, and the side-effects are much more severe and longer-lasting. Seems like it would be much more difficult for women who live in remote areas.

Much applause that the counseling aspect of abortion isn't being ignored, though. And certainly women should have as many options on the table when choosing whether to keep or end a pregnancy.

What are your current abortion clinics like?


I'm wondering why you think RU486 is not as effective as a surgical procedure? Do you mean a successful abortion or you mean health-wise.

I think it's the lack of access to GP's who can/will perform the surgical procedure itself.

I agree, having the most number of options is the ideal. A balanced approach to counselling is a priority.

Thankfully I can't comment from personal experience on the full procedure our abortion clinics here. I had a tubal ligation so my contraception is quite effective. Wink On the visits before that, I've found the counselling procedure supportive, 'balanced' and explanatory.

Australia is largely pro-choice, however there is a recent and worrying trend of right wing, religious fundamentalist neo-conservatives gaining more power and alliances within the government.
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It's less successful as a means of terminating the pregnancy and to some degree, health-wise. Some women will need to have a surgical abortion because the pills did not work. Because she won't know until the last docotor's visit if the pregnancy has been terminated, she will already have experienced about two weeks of cramping and bleeding and then have to go through additional pain and recovery time from the surgical procedure.

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