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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 19 September 2018) . . Page.. 3845 ..


more and better options than recourse to abortion. At the beginning of my career in this place I spoke about abortion being a surgical solution to a social problem.

Every day in Canberra, as it is around the world, women discover that they are pregnant and realise that they are not in the best possible situation to nurture their baby. We would be better and stronger as a society if we embraced those women and their babies, rather than encouraging or coercing them down the path of ending their child’s life.

This bill seeks to make it easier for Canberra women to gain access to the drug commonly known as RU486 so that they can procure their own abortions privately and discreetly and go through the process relatively unsupervised and often without support. I do not see that as caring for Canberra women.

It is appropriate that I spend a little time talking about what RU486 is. It is a drug that is used in the early stages of abortion, usually up to 50 days, or occasionally as emergency—after-the-fact contraception. In addition to killing the developing baby by counteracting the effects of prostaglandin, the side effects of RU486 are considerable and can result in the death of mothers. The first adult death from the use of RU486 in Australia was made public in March 2012 and followed the death of a woman at a Marie Stopes clinic. According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, the woman died in 2010.

To put the quality of RU486 as a product into perspective I am going to rely on the work of the abortion activist and feminist writer Renate Klein, whose book RU486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals has been described as classic text for health advocates and feminists interested in the complexities of how drugs are developed, marketed and sold to women around the world. Klein is critical of the positive claims about RU486 and argues that its promotion is filled with myths and misconceptions which benefit the medical profession, the drug companies and government health economies and offer no advantage to women because, amongst other things, of the dangerous effects of prostaglandins. Klein says in her book:

… a down-to-earth rational best practice approach that truly respects women’s health and wellbeing could not, in good faith, endorse this fraught abortion method …

RU 486 … abortion is an unsafe, second-rate abortion method with significant problems.

She goes on to say that, in spite of improvements over the decades to the drug levels used in treatment and even the inclusion in some cases of antibiotics to prevent infections, RU486 abortion is an unsafe, second-rate method with significant problems.

The experience of women taking RU486 is quite mixed and Klein’s book dwells at length on some of those experiences. But I will quote her response to the claim that RU486 is safe and effective. She says:


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