China Bans Abortion Pill
(CNSNews.com) - China has reportedly banned all pharmaceutical sales of abortion pill RU-486, citing safety concerns about the drug.
"In order to guarantee patients' safety and protect their health, it is decided that no matter whether patients have a doctor's prescription or not, retail drug stores are forbidden to sell mifepristone (RU-486) tablets," read a notice from China's state drug administration reported in international news agencies.
China already had a policy prohibiting some pharmacies from selling the product, though RU-486 can be obtained from hospitals, the black market and underground clinics.
The communist country has long had a one-child policy that has led to mandatory surgical abortions.
John Tkacik, a research fellow in China policy for the Heritage Foundation, speculates that the government's latest action reflects a political calculation rather than genuine concern for the health of Chinese women.
"I would never say they're so caring of their people and that's the main motivation," said Tkacik.
"The problem with the Chinese government," he said, "is that they're faced with a number of internal political problems: massive unemployment; farmers that are demonstrating because the government isn't supporting them; massive labor unrest, especially in coal mines where mining and industrial accidents are every day occurrences."
Some women already die or experience health complications and death associated with forced surgical abortions, because abortion providers are not very well trained, said Tkacik. If RU-486 is causing further problems, he said, the Chinese government may have decided to ban all pharmaceutical sales in an effort to prevent more health risks.
"After a while, your citizenry get sort of sick of it," Tkacik said. "We've seen several instances of civil unrest. There have been riots in the streets, massive demonstrations. Sometimes there's not enough police to go around.
"There's generally a sense in China that 'anything we can do to lessen this, so much the better,'" he said.
The American Life League urged the Bush administration to ban RU-486 in the U.S. because of side effects that include hemorrhage, faintness, dizziness, cramping, vomiting, and hypertension. In some cases, women who take RU-486 still require surgical abortions.
"This report from China is fresh evidence that even abortion promoters know there are serious safety problems with RU-486," said ALL president Judie Brown.
"We have repeatedly called on President Bush and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to take similar action in this country" by banning the drug, said Brown.
But Melissa May, director of public information for the Population Council, which has the U.S. rights to RU-486, said there is no need for American women to worry about the Chinese government's decision.
"Over 700,000 women have taken mifepristone successfully, and that just isn't an issue," said May.
"It's just very hard to extrapolate a decision that's made in China under very different circumstances," she said. Maybe the problem in China was that Chinese women were not given proper instructions by pharmacies on how to take the two-drug combination properly, May suggested.
See Earlier Stories:
Canadian Woman Dies in RU-486 Trial Run (September 19, 2001)
FDA Criticized for Playing Politics, Downplaying Risk of RU-486 (December 01, 2000)