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ss triple helix - spring 2006,  RU486 - Moves for abortions at home

RU486 - Moves for abortions at home

The last twelve months have seen moves to further promote the designer abortion drug RU486 around the world. Otherwise known as the antiprogesterone mifepristone, it was specifically developed as an abortifacient by French pharmaceutical firm Roussel-Uclaf (hence the letters RU) in the 1980s; in Britain it has been licensed for use as such since 1991. By blocking the uterine actions of progesterone, RU486 causes endometrial breakdown and abortion of the embryo or fetus.

But traditionally up to four trips to the abortion clinic have been required to complete an RU486 termination. In addition, it usually has to be given with a vaginal prostaglandin in order to stimulate the uterus into expelling the dead fetus. This often involves considerable pain and distress for the woman.This discomfort (both physical and psychological) is one of the reasons why, in England and Wales, most terminations are not performed medically but surgically, using vacuum aspiration.

Now, perhaps in an effort to make abortion cheaper for the NHS, even easier to obtain and allegedly more convenient for the women concerned, our Government is ploughing ahead with plans to promote abortions at home using RU486. A Department of Health study has suggested that this is safe. Supervised by a nurse, 172 women less than nine weeks pregnant took mifepristone and misoprostol at a health centre; they then went home and had medical abortions.[1]

In the USA, there are growing concerns that RU486 predisposes the endometrium to infection. There have been at least five maternal deaths from septic shock after RU486 abortions. The father of one of these young women, Holly Patterson, is campaigning for a review of the drug by the American Food and Drug Administration.[2]

A previous news review in this journal concluded that the history of this drug was a long tale of deception and corruption on several continents that we hadn't heard the last of.[3] According to recent figures, the government's £150 million campaign to reduce pregnancies among young girls has been an embarrassing failure, with ministers under pressure to close the discredited Teenage Pregnancy Unit.[4] This latest move to shift abortion from the operating theatre to the privacy of British homes, without any attempt to address the spiralling rates of unplanned pregnancy, further trivialises a procedure which has ended the lives of six million babies, markedly changed our national demographic profile and brought a legacy of psychological, physical and spiritual trauma for women.

  2. LifeNews, 14 February 2006;
  3. Gardner G. RU486. Triple Helix 2001; Winter:4
  4. The Telegraph, 24 February 2006,
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