Australia Moves Closer to Allowing Mifepristone Access

The Australian Senate passed a measure this week that will increase women’s access to mifepristone. The bill takes the regulation of mifepristone (also known as RU-486) away from the Minister of Health, giving regulatory power to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, a non-elected government agency. While under the oversight of the Minister of Health, currently abortion-opponent Tony Abbott, the drug was effectively banned.

The Australian Medical Association recommended allowing mifepristone prescriptions, and placing decisions about the drug in the hands of the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Senator Lyn Allison, leader of the Australian Democrats party, said, “It is galling listening to the men, and it is mostly men, who have such contempt for women who terminate unwanted pregnancies,” reports Reuters. In the course of debate, Allison challenged that attitude by telling parliament about her own experience, saying “an estimated one in three women have had an abortion and I am one of those.”

Feminist Majority Foundation Medical Director Beth Jordan, MD, testified before Community Affairs Committee of the Australian Senate in support of the legalization of mifepristone in Australia. “Decades of research and long-term surveillance data worldwide on mifepristone document that it is an effective medication that has been safely used by millions of women,” said Dr. Jordan. “Medication abortion should be made widely and easily available to the women and men of Australia for safe, effective and early abortion as well as for compassionate use purposes for patients with health-threatening conditions.”

The House of Representatives has not yet voted on the measure, though it is expected to vote next week, and the measure is considered likely to pass, reports AFP.

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AFP 2/9/06; Kaiser 2/9/06; Reuters 2/9/06; Testimony of Beth Jordan 1/16/06

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