Catholic doctors urge continued ban on 'human pesticide'

Australian Catholic doctors are backing a number of MPs in campaigning to maintain the ban on the abortion drug Mifepristone (RU486), which is being dubbed "human pesticide".

CLICK HEREThe Catholic Weekly reports that amid calls for a conscience vote in Federal Parliament over the issue, the doctors are warning of the health risks, such as uncontrolled haemorrhaging, and the added dangers to women living in areas without ready access to hospitals as well as the ethical problems posed by its use to induce a miscarriage.

Dr Brigid Vout, executive officer for the archdiocesan Life Office, is concerned about the ethical and potential health problems the drug poses, despite Australian Medical Association endorsement of it as "safe and effective".

"RU486 is a chemical response to the complex problems facing a woman who is pregnant in difficult circumstances. But it's not the solution," she says. "A drug which ends a new human life and endangers a woman's health is never a 'safe and effective' solution."

Dr David van Gend, spokesperson for the Queensland branch of the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life, disputes the argument for the drug as providing equal access for safe abortions for rural women.

"There's nothing equitable about putting country women in a situation far more dangerous than their city counterparts (if something goes wrong)," he says.

Dr Catherine Lennon, NSW president of Doctors for Life, is concerned that even if its use as an abortifacient is banned, current Australian trials of the drug may see it introduced for other purposes - leaving it open to abuse for use as an abortion pill.

Australian Democrats leader Lyn Allison plans to introduce amendments in the Federal Parliament to the legislation requiring the approval of the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, for an abortifacient to be imported or listed as a medicine in Australia.

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports that Mr Abbott is declining to give the go-ahead because of advice that the drug is risky. However medical experts are challenging the advice, and there is mounting pressure on the Prime Minister to allow a conscience vote on the issue.

The Herald says the Health Department's advice to Mr Abbott was yesterday criticised as "very narrow" by a cabinet minister, Helen Coonan, and attacked as "ridiculous rubbish" by the Liberal MP Mal Washer, a general practitioner.

Keep ban on 'human pesticide' - doctors (Catholic Weekly 20/11/05)
Abortion advice challenged (Sydney Morning Herald 17/11/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Life Office - Archdiocese of Sydney

Church concern about Howard backdown on abortion drug ban (CathNews 14/10/05)
Church mentors to stop abortion (CathNews 4/10/05)
Abortion study points to demand for "new" debate (CathNews 27/6/05)

Pope praises anti-abortion movement (Agence France-Presse/ABC 17/11/05)
Pro-life group, Hillary Clinton agree: Bush should condemn forced abortion during China visit (Catholic News Agency 16/11/05)
Keep ban on 'human pesticide' - doctors (Catholic Weekly 20/11/05)
Peter van Onselen and Wayne Errington: Politics and religion - still a bitter pill (Sydney Morning Herald 17/11/05)
Cardinals Speak Out Against Abortion Pill in Italy (Zenit 15/11/05)
Brazilian Bishops Assail Abortion Legislation (Zenit 14/11/05)
Action on abortion (Catholic Leader 13/11/05)
Papal backing for pro-life activists (Catholic World News 16/11/05)
Call for funding for abortion counselling (Catholic Weekly 13/11/05)

17 Nov 2005