Campaign Life Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg says that the abortifacient drug RU-486 causes harm to unborn children and women. CCN photo/Deborah Gyapong

Pro-lifers hope new law will keep RU-486 out of Canada

  • January 7, 2015

OTTAWA - Canadian pro-lifers hope that a law requiring mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions will be enough to keep the abortifacient drug RU-486 out of Canada.

The decision on whether Canada will approve RU-486, also known as mifepristone, could come by mid-January, according to recent media reports, but pro-life activists hope the answer will be “no.”

“Campaign Life Coalition has been on the forefront of warning Canadian women that this drug is a dangerous option,” said Campaign Life Ottawa lobbyist Johanne Brownrigg. “Clearly it is lethal to unborn children.”

But the drug is also dangerous for women, she stressed.

“Some have died from using this drug.”

Brownrigg hopes Vanessa’s Law, Bill C-17, which received Royal Assent in November, will help ensure mifepristone and any related abortion drug does not pass Health Canada standards.

The law is named after Conservative MP Terence Young’s daughter Vanessa, who died of a heart attack after taking a prescription heartburn medication.

Bill C-17 requires mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions, tough new penalties for unsafe products and revised warning labels among other protections.

“We could trust that Health Canada would follow those guidelines and see that RU-486 is not the miracle drug it’s being marketed as,” Brownrigg said.

Though proponents of the drug argue it is safe and already available in more than 50 countries, Brownrigg listed a host of documented adverse reactions in countries where it is legal.

“In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported 2,200 adverse effects, including 14 deaths, 58 ectopic pregnancies, 256 infections and 339 requiring transfusions,” she said.

Studies in the United States and France conducted by researcher Regine Sitruk-Ware found that out of 1.5 million women who reported taking the drug, approximately 150,000 experienced severe bleeding, 21,000 required having their wombs scraped out through curettage and almost 4,000 needed blood transfusions, she said.

Campaign Life has not heard anything from its contacts that a decision is pending on the request for approval from a pharmaceutical manufacturer that was made in 2012. “We’re waiting along with the general population,” Brownrigg said.

“Health Canada does not disclose timelines for specific drug submissions,” said Health Canada spokesman Eric Morrissette, noting the fate of the drug will be made public “only if the decision is positive.”

If the decision is negative, it will be up to the manufacturer and Health Canada to decide whether to publicize the rejection, he said.

“The very fact that we are once again confronted with the very real possibility that RU-486 may be introduced in Canada underscores the undeniable fact that the culture of death continues to be nurtured by interests which stand to gain financially from its perpetuation,” said Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) assistant director Peter Murphy.

“This drug was effectively banned in Canada in 2001 after a woman died from septic shock during initial drug trials.”

Brownrigg said Canada should not be pressured by the fact other countries have approved the abortion drug.

“We’re not talking about health care or a health care treatment like a cure for epilepsy or cancer, so looking at what other countries are doing in regard to using RU-486 isn’t helpful. In fact, setting a higher standard for women’s health care may challenge those countries to re-examine their approval of RU-486,” she said. “We can do better for women.”

Murphy agreed.

“Surely women deserve better. We need to ask ourselves, at what point did we as a society decide that pregnancy is a disease?”

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