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February 6, 2001


Communications Department

Mnational Abortion Federation Opposes Legislation That Would Impose Restrictions on Mifepristone (RU-486) Already Rejected as Medically Unnecessary by the FDA

Statement of Vicki Saporta, Executive Director

Washington, DC - I am here today on behalf of the health care professionals who provide safe, high-quality abortion care to women. I am also here on behalf of the women who choose abortion each year, including those who have flooded our Hotline with calls in recent months, seeking information about mifepristone.

I join my colleagues today in opposing this latest attempt by anti-choice legislators to use politics to deny American women access to a very safe method of early abortion.

As many of you know, the Reagan and Bush administrations prevented mifepristone from being available in the United States because of their staunch opposition to a woman's right to choose. Eight years ago, in 1993, President Clinton lifted the ban on mifepristone and U.S. clinical trials were finally conducted. For those who have attempted to argue that mifepristone was "fast-tracked" though the approval process, I'd like to emphasize that its approval took almost 8 years.

There is no doubt that mifepristone is a very safe method for early abortion. In Europe, more than 620,000 women have now used mifepristone safely to end a very early pregnancy. Close to 9,000 American women used the medication safely and effectively in clinical trials. In fact, in the U.S. clinical trials less than one half of 1% of women required any serious medical intervention. Since its availability in November, hundreds more women have used mifepristone without any major complications. All of the medical and scientific data clearly illustrate the outstanding safety record of this medication. And yet, members of Congress, most of whom have worked for years to take away a woman's right to choose, are questioning mifepristone's safety.

We should instead be questioning the motivation behind this legislation. Restrictions similar to those contained in this bill were considered by the FDA and rejected as medically unnecessary, and inconsistent with the way medicine is practiced in this country.

For example, the FDA requires that a doctor offering mifepristone be able to accurately date the pregnancy, be able to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, and be able to complete a surgical abortion or arrange for back-up from another provider in the small number of cases where a surgical abortion is necessary to complete the procedure. The FDA specifically did not require that the physician providing mifepristone be a surgical abortion provider, because it is standard medical practice for a doctor to refer to another physician if they do not provide a particular service.

Claims that this legislation is motivated by a concern for women's health are at best, disingenuous, and at worst, dishonest.

In the last year, NAF has conducted accredited medical education programs for more than 2,000 physicians, nurses, counselors and other health care professionals in the safe administration of mifepristone. Many of the clinicians who participated in our training program are now offering mifepristone to women around the country.

We are proud of our role in ensuring the accessibility of this medical breakthrough because mifepristone allows women to access abortion care earlier than it has traditionally been available. And earlier abortion is safer for women.

We believe that the promise of mifepristone is that it will eventually increase access to abortion services for women, as more physicians add this option to their practices. It is this potential of mifepristone to expand the pool of abortion providers that threatens those who want to restrict its use. Let there be no mistake - this has nothing to do with women's health, and everything to do with anti-choice politics.

In September of last year, when mifepristone was approved by the FDA for very early abortion, science finally triumphed over politics. American women finally gained access to a method that has been used by millions of women worldwide for more than a decade. Members of Congress with questions about mifepristone need look no further than to the FDA, to the vast body of medical research documenting mifepristone's safety, and to the experiences of the millions of women worldwide who have used this method safely and effectively. There is no medical reason to impose further restrictions. Members of Congress should leave the approval of new medications to the FDA, and the practice of medicine to physicians.


The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.

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