I have been building up a head of steam for several days now about the legislative amendment that was passed in the Senate yesterday concerning RU486. It is absolutely horrifying the way the terms of the amendment have been completely hijacked and ignored by lobby groups from both sides of the abortion fence.
Let's get this clear, everyone. The amendment is about whether the Health Minister (that is, Tony Abbott, who is not a medical practitioner or a pharmacist) or the Therapeutic Goods Administration (which is a unit of a Government department) should be able to decide whether this drug is safe enough to be made available by prescription to Australian women. The amendment is not about whether women should be allowed to abort fetuses: it is not even about whether this method of abortion is safer than other (legal) methods of abortion. It is about who gets to make the decision.
Whether this amendment is passed by the House of Reps next week or not, the legal status of abortion will not change. The availability of RU486 as a method of carrying out abortions may not change, either, depending on the decision of the TGA. All that will change is that Tony Abbott will no longer have the right to make decisions about the availability of drugs that he personally will never use. So he can stop meddling with women's bodies and go meddle with his own.
There's a scare campaign going on that has convinced some wimpy politicians that Mr Abbott is the only person in the country who can protect Aussie women from gruesome and painful death. The campaign features ads that claim women will die if RU486 becomes available by prescription. But consider the statistics:
The Medical Journal of Australia says that the maternal death rate in Australia in 2003 was 8.2 deaths per 100,000 women. On the other hand, the death rate for women who used RU486 is 1 in 200,000. In other words, RU486 is about 15 times safer than continuing with a pregnancy.
*** Please note: these are statistics. I am not trying to prove that abortion by RU486 is better than pregnancy in all, or any, cases. I am simply trying to show that the scare campaign about women dying from RU486 is missing the point of both the abortion debate and the actual amendment to the legislation.***
You know, I love to keep in regular correspondence with my local MP, and I'd write to her about this but I know she's already on my side. But if you have an MP who may need encouragement to vote to get RU486 assessed by a properly qualified Government body rather than Tony Abbott, then join GetUp's campaign. Please.
Yes, I know the heading of this entry is also missing the point of the amendment. But it got your attention, didn't it?