Australian senate inquiry receives 4,000 submisions on abortion pill

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: RU486 (abortion pill) debate

The Australian Senate has been flooded with submissions into an inquiry about the possible use of the abortion drug Mifepristone (known as RU486) in Australia.

The senate committee is to consider a private members bill, introduced by a group of female senators and MPs to strip the Australian health minister of his control over the drug. If successful, the drug would then have to be approved by the Threrapeutic Goods Administration before it would be allowed to be used in Australia.

Senator Fiona Nash of the Nationals argues that the bill is not about abortion but about process. She said "What's been put forward here is who is best able to judge the quality, safety and efficacy of this particular drug and who is best able to judge whether it should be used in Australia".

Ms Nash believes that the TGA should be responsible for allowing or denying the use of drugs in Australia, not the health minister.

Lyn Elisson, leader of the Democrats said that only around 2,000 of the submissions would be considered as the remainder do not meet the senate's terms of reference. She also said "This bill is not about the morality or legality of abortion.

"It's really about whether the Minister for Health should have the power of veto over an alternative to legal surgical abortion."

National's senator Barnaby Joyce argues that all opinions should be taken into account and that the enquiry should be conducted for at least a week.

Peter Slipper, MP for the Liberal party claims that the proposed legislation can not be separated from the RU486 issue. He told ABC radio "I believe it would be a negation of our responsibility if we were to flick the decision to an unelected body, an unaccountable body, such as the TGA."

It is believed that only 100 submissions are from those supporting the use of RU486.

The inquiry has received international attention with submissions from the US, New Zealand and Austria. This pill has been available for use in France since 1988, in Switzerland since 1999.

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