Tony Abbott has spoken. The ban on the abortificiant RU486 stays.

Why? Let Michelle Grattan answer that. Medical experts, not the
minister, should decide – and she’s hit the nail right on the head with
her comments on Abbott’s actions this morning:

Whatever the merits and limitations of the
abortion-inducing drug RU486, it seems bizarre that the decision about
its entry into the country is left in the hands of the health minister.

Never mind that Tony Abbott, who received departmental advice on the
drug yesterday, has strong anti-abortion views. If he was the keenest
of pro-choicers, the point would be the same.

People would be appalled if drugs used in the treatment of cancer,
asthma or heart disease had to have a politician’s approval before they
could be evaluated by the expert Therapeutic Goods Administration. Why
is this drug different? Politics, that’s why.

And it’s interesting to see The Australian’sreport on the subject:

The Sydney obstetrician and gynaecologist whose advice was
used to justify the continued ban denied he had told the Government
RU486 should not be used. Andrew Child said the abortion drug was
“safe, effective and has been tested all over the world.”

Professor Child told News Limited newspapers he would be happy to see
RU486 used in Australia as long as women had an ultrasound before it
was administered to ensure the pregnancy was not ectopic. He said women
treated with the abortion pill would also need to have access to
after-hours medical services in case of complications.

Last week the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued a media release
supporting the Australian Medical Association’s call for RU486 to be
made available in Australia. “Mifepristone (RU486) has a proven role in
fertility control,” the College’s release said. “It is widely available
throughout Europe and the USA. It is now available in New Zealand, but
not Australia.”

“RANZCOG believes that best practice in this field includes the option
of using mifepristone when termination of pregnancy is to be
performed,” RANZCOG President, Dr Kenneth Clark, was quoted as saying.

That’s noteworthy, as anyone who follows this debate will know the College takes a conservative approach.

And it’s worthwhile asking how the Health Minister’s boss feels on the
matter. Whatever his faults, the Prime Minister cares for his staff,
and a number of them and their spouses have needed interventions when
they’ve sought to have children. The PM couldn’t have been more
sympathetic and supportive – and in touch with the realities of modern
fertility practice.