January 22, 2001
volume 12, no. 22
Thompson Would Review RU-486 Abortion Pill Approval

    WASHINGTON, DC --)ProLifeInfonet) Pro-life Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson said Friday he would review the recent approval of the abortion pill RU-486 if he is confirmed as health and human services secretary, suggesting there may be safety concerns for women. President Bush has appointed Thompson as the next Health Secretary.

    ``If there are some problems, and somebody has indicated there might be some safety concerns, it should be reviewed and that's what I will do,'' Thompson said Friday after a confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

    Thompson, who has built a strong pro-life record as Wisconsin governor, would not have the power to pull the drug from the market unless new medical information is uncovered.

    The Food and Drug Administration, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, approved the drug in September, 12 years after European women began using it and after years of strong opposition in the United States by pro-life groups.

    It was only after six hours of testimony, over two days and before two Senate committees, that Thompson was asked about RU-486. ``Will you take any action to undo the FDA approval?'' asked pro-abortion Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Thompson's last questioner.

    ``I don't intend to roll back anything unless it's proven to be unsafe,'' Thompson said in his first public comments on the matter. "I think it's my role to review the safety concerns for women in the United States. It's a new drug. It's contentious. It's controversial. And the safety concerns, as I understand it, are something that's in question." Asked by reporters what the safety concerns are, Thompson said, ``I don't know. Give me a chance to get confirmed and then we'll get into it.''

    Thompson's confirmation appears assured, with senators of both parties expressing strong support for him.

    The prospect of a review was already jolting pro-abortion supporters of the dangerous abortion drug.

    ``It's outrageous,'' said Katherine Spillar, national coordinator for the Feminist Majority. ``Clearly, Mr. Thompson is going to put his ideology over and above women's health.'' If he goes ahead with a review, she added: ``There will be a big fight.''

    But Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee said there are concerns about the way the FDA approved the drug and about how it is being produced. ``There certainly is enough evidence to warrant the agency looking at these issues,'' he said.

    In approving RU-486, the FDA wrongly determined it to be safe and effective. The agency does not have the power to overturn its decision unless there are unexpected, severe side effects. The FDA could, however, impose additional restrictions on its use, such as restricting what doctors could prescribe it or where it could be used. Those restrictions would be subject to a lengthy rule-making procedure and would need medical justification.

    Thompson was also asked about why FDA Commissioner Jane Henney was dismissed Thursday evening. Despite popularity among many industry and patient groups, Henney was not expected to stay largely because she oversaw the approval of RU-486.

    ``This is not the way to begin. This is truly not the way to begin,'' said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. Referring RU-486, Mikulski added, ``I hope the dismissal of Jane Henney is not the future of a battleground. We cannot politicize the FDA.''

    Thompson responded that all political appointees were asked to submit their resignations but promised that he would review Henney's to be sure the decision about who will serve as his FDA commissioner is ``based on merit.''

For other news stories, see

January 22, 2001
volume 12, no. 22
DAILY News regarding the Sanctity of Life

Return to Front Page of Current Issue