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Bill on Abortion Pill Passed by Assembly : Medicine: A resolution urging that California be chosen as a research testing site for the French drug, RU-486, was sent to the Senate.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a victory for abortion rights forces, the Assembly on Thursday urged that California be chosen as a research testing site for the controversial French abortion pill RU-486.

A resolution seeking the designation was approved on a 46-22 vote and sent to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. Forty Democrats and six Republicans voted yes; all 22 no votes were cast by GOP members.

Referring to religion-based opposition to the pill, Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan (D-Fresno), a supporter, cautioned against “trying to mix religious fanaticism and good public policy-making in a democratic setting.” This might work under Middle East dictatorships, he said, but when it is attempted in the United States “the issues overlap and the public suffers as a result.”

Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills), an opponent, asserted that “I don’t want people in California to be guinea pigs. Let them test it in France and England and come up with the results. We don’t need our people to be harmed.”

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The RU-486 pill is administered orally and is considered effective only during the first trimester of a pregnancy. As used in France, a pregnant woman seeking the pill must have a complete physical examination and receive the pill at a licensed clinic. Later, a second drug is injected. If the drugs fail to end an abortion in seven days, a surgical abortion is required.

Assemblywoman Jackie Speier (D-South San Francisco), the resolution’s author, contended that “RU-486 could be the most revolutionary drug of the century. We cannot allow any group to restrict the development of medical knowledge. . . . We must allow science, not personal ideology, to prevail upon this issue.”

In addition “to being safely used” by 100,000 French women in the termination of pregnancies of less than seven weeks, Speier said, RU-486 “has shown promise” in the treatment of breast, brain, endometrial, ovarian and prostate cancers. She said it also has potential uses in the treatment of AIDS, glaucoma, Cushing’s disease, osteoporosis, wound and burn repair and diabetes.

Anti-abortion forces denounced such claims as “snake oil” and cited medical problems experienced by some French women who have taken the drug.

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Speier countered that penicillin causes a violent reaction in 5% of the U.S. population. “Is that a reason to take if off the market?” she asked. “Absolutely not.”

The resolution calls upon President Bush and Congress to rescind a federal Food and Drug Administration import alert on RU-486 that has temporarily blocked research in the United States.

It also urges the California Department of Health Services to approve the pill’s use for clinical trials in the state. And it encourages researchers and businesses that decide to test RU-486 to choose California as the testing site.

The testing process is endorsed by the American Medical Assn., the American Public Health Assn., the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science and the American Education Assn.

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New Hampshire is the only other state that has asked to become a testing site for the pill.

Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra) called the emotional floor debate “a waste of time and energy.”


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