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Ban the Death Pill!

The parents of a California teenager who died after taking RU 486 have endorsed a congressional attempt to withdraw federal approval of the abortion drug.

Monty and Helen Patterson of Livermore, Calif., released an open letter about the abortion drug and their daughter's death on the same day the RU 486 Suspension and Review Act, H.R. 3453, was introduced in the House of Representatives. The measure would suspend the Food and Drug Administration's approval of RU 486 pending a review of the FDA's process in certifying the abortion drug for use in the United States. The FDA approved RU 486 in 2000.

Holly Patterson, 18, died September 17, one week after beginning the two-drug regimen to abort her unborn child. She died as a result of complications from "therapeutic drug-induced abortion," the Alameda County coroner's office ruled October 30 after a preliminary autopsy, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The San Francisco-area resident received RU 486 from a Planned Parenthood clinic in Hayward, Calif., according to The Chronicle.

"We actively support a bill that halts the use of the drug that took Holly's young life," Holly's parents wrote in their November 6 letter. "As parents, we cannot allow our beautiful Holly's horrible death to be in vain. We have lost our daughter, Holly, but we can still help to prevent this terrible tragedy from happening in other families."

Rep. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., chief sponsor of what has been named "Holly's Law," said what makes her death "even more tragic is that it was preventable. When the Clinton administration rushed approval of RU 486 in its waning days in 2000, many members of Congress knew that the FDA cut corners and compromised safety. We should not have to wait for another death before Congress suspends FDA's approval of RU 486 and conducts an independent review of the irregular procedures the FDA used to push this drug onto the market."

One of those "irregular procedures," DeMint said in a written release, was the FDA's approval of RU 486 as a drug for treating life-threatening sicknesses.

"Defining pregnancy as a life-threatening illness was a thoroughly political, not scientific, decision," he said. "Any reasonable person committed to protecting the health and safety of women should conclude that the approval process for RU 486 deserves an independent review."

The Pattersons also called for FDA Commissioner Mark McClelland and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to remove RU 486 from the market promptly. "The FDA has failed to carry out its mission of ensuring RU 486 is a safe and effective abortion drug regimen," they wrote.

An FDA spokesman said the agency is "aggressively investigating" the death, The Washington Post reported November 3.

While DeMint is a pro-life advocate, the Pattersons said in their letter RU 486 "should not be either a pro-life or pro-choice issue."

At least three other women have died from the use of RU 486 in North America and at least thirteen have had transfusions because of blood loss, according to DeMint's office.

Pro-life organizations, including the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, fought introduction of RU 486 into this country for more than a decade before it was approved. They have called for the FDA to review its approval process for RU 486 since then.

"The tragic story of this young woman is precisely why we fought the legalization of RU 486 and will continue to oppose its use," ERLC President Richard Land said after Patterson's death.

RU 486, also known as mifepristone but which uses the trade name Mifeprex in this country, causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child. RU 486 normally is used in the first seven weeks of pregnancy. A second drug, a prostaglandin, is taken two days after mifepristone and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the baby. When the FDA approved Mifeprex, it required the anti-ulcer drug misoprostol to be used to eject the preborn baby. Cytotec is the trademark name for the drug mandated for expelling the baby in the RU 486 process.

In October, Concerned Women for America, as well as the Christian Medical Association and the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, filed a brief calling for the FDA to withdraw RU 486 from sale until a safety review was conducted. Last year, the same groups filed a petition with the FDA urging immediate revocation of RU 486.

When the FDA approved RU 486, it followed a controversial effort that took nearly eight years. The first Bush administration had refused to allow importation of RU 486, which was known as the French abortion pill because of its development in France. On his second full day in office in January 1993, President Clinton initiated the process to drop the import ban on the drug.

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January 2004 Edition
Volume 12, Issue 4
January 2004