Rep. Bartlett Wins Support to Ban Abortion Pill

Not only is the abortion pill RU-486 killing babies, Maryland Rep. Roscoe Bartlett said Wednesday, it's now known to kill their mothers and should be banned immediately.

Bartlett held a news conference Wednesday to boost passage of his legislation, commonly known as "Holly's Law," which calls for the Food and Drug Administration's suspension of RU-486.

"I don't want it on the market," the pro-life Republican said. "We need to be responsible. We need to move on this. This is a very modest bill."

The bill has 79 other co-sponsors, including Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio.

"Too many girls have been lured into the masquerade that this is a quick-and-easy fix," she said. "Let's give it a vote."

Named after Holly Patterson, an 18-year-old California woman who died in 2003 after taking the drug, the bill is before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. No hearings have been scheduled.

At least five women have died from taking the drug, which is used to terminate early pregnancies, since its approval in 2000, according to a New England Journal of Medicine article, although the precise number is disputed. More than 460,000 doses have been shipped from Danco Laboratories, the manufacturer of the drug, although it is not clear how many doses have actually been taken, according to the Journal.

Using these figures, the article, by Michael Greene of Harvard Medical School, puts the risk of death at less than one per 100,000.

Four of the deaths associated with RU-486 were caused by septic shock, an overwhelming bacterial infection that can decrease blood pressure and flow, according to the FDA. The other was attributed to an ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo is attached outside the uterus.

"The bacteria has also been found in pregnant women and women who have had medical abortions," said Jennifer Morcone, spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "There are a lot of scientific questions."

Bill proponents insist that regardless of the cause of death, the drug is dangerous to expectant mothers.

"It is undeniable that these women were healthy before the use of (RU-486) and became very sick or died shortly after its use," wrote Margaret Gary and Donna Harrison, of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

The drug currently has a "black box" label, which calls specific attention to the possible serious consequences of the drug.

"It's one of the more serious warnings, meant to highlight the risks," said Susan Cruzan, spokeswoman for the FDA.

Bartlett also called for a law requiring parental notification, and cited the same Holly Patterson case, even though at age 18, she would have been considered an adult at the time she sought the abortion drug.

"Her parents didn't know she was pregnant until she was in the hospital and dying," he said. "That begs for another law on notification."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.