Newspapers Notice More RU-486 Deaths, But Downplay Clinton-Era FDA Approval

The Washington Post reported yesterday on A-6 that the Food and Drug Administration announced two more women have died from infections after using the RU-486 abortion drug cocktail. Marc Kaufmann's story offered some balance, pairing Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood with Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America:

The agency's handling of the seven deaths of women who had undergone medical abortion was criticized by opponents of the drug.

"The FDA has pulled other drugs that have caused fewer deaths and less severe complications than RU-486," Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said in a statement. "Why the double-standard for an abortion drug that is now linked to the deaths of seven healthy women and over 800 other reported complications?"

Opponents of medical abortion filed a citizen's petition with the FDA soon after the drug was approved for use, but the FDA has never acted on it. In addition, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.) introduced a bill in 2003 -- called Holly's Law, after Holly Patterson, an 18-year-old California woman who died following a medical abortion -- that would ban use of RU-486. The bill has 79 co-sponsors.

The New York Times story by Gardiner Harris focuses on Planned Parenthood, where four of the seven women received their last prescriptions, but the Times only brings out RU-486 critics at the very end, concluding with Holly Patterson's father. Mollie Ziegler has more at Get Religion.

Both newspapers downplay the point that RU-486 was rushed to approval by the FDA in September 2000 in what appeared to conservatives like a nervous attempt to prevent a Bush administration from keeping the abortion drug combo off the market. In the Bush years, the FDA has been hassled for putting politics ahead of science and women's health. It would be nice for liberal newspapers to notice that in this case, conservatives believe the liberals put politics ahead of science and women's health.

Brent Bozell wrote up Holly Patterson's sad (and undercovered) story here.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis