An effective ban on RU-486 in Australia ended this week when the Australian House of Representatives passed a bill to remove Health Minister Tony Abbot’s veto over the drug. The vote concurs with an earlier Senate decision. Decisions regarding mifepristone will now rest with the country’s main drug regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which is expected to make the drug available in Australia within the year.
Lawmakers voted independent of their parties in a rare “conscience vote,” spurred by a cross-party coalition of women MPs in support of RU-486. Only 27 conscience votes have been held in Australian history Ð the last was held four years ago.
The debate over RU-486 was deeply divisive, pitting Prime Minister John Howard, who favored RU-486’s distribution, against his chosen successor, Treasurer Peter Costello. 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 and said “Medical 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.”