Panel Approves RU-486

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GAITHERSBURG, Maryland: An alternative to surgical abortion may soon become available to women in the United States. A scientific advisory panel voted today 6-0 to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve the controversial abortion drug RU- 486. Anti-abortion activists have waged a campaign calling for the FDA to reject the drug, calling it human pesticide, but the panel ignored their shouts and banners outside the hearing, and followed FDA Commissioner David Kessler's request to "focus on the science." RU-486 is 95.5 percent effective in aborting pregnancies if it is used within the first weeks of conception. But using the drug is not a simple procedure. First, a woman must take three tablets of RU-486 which stops secretion of a hormone needed to maintain pregnancy. Two days later, two misoprostol pills are necessary to start a series of strong uterine contractions and end the pregnancy. Since excessive bleeding is a possible danger at that point, most women would wait at a clinic or doctor's office for a few hours just in case. A third doctor's visit is then necessary to make sure the fetus has aborted. If it has not, the mother is given a surgical abortion, since the RU-486 regimen can deform fetuses. "RU-486 has been tested on over 200,000 women in Europe" says TIME's Alice Park. "If it is used correctly and dispensed very carefully with counseling from a doctor or a clinic, women will be able to learn what complications to look for. There is no reason to think RU-486 won't be relatively safe. If RU-486 is approved, it will give women another birth control option, and one that is relatively easy to use." -->