PoliGraph: Peppin’s claim mostly false

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This week, the Minnesota House approved a bill that would require a doctor to be present when a woman takes a pill called RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill.

Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, is the chief sponsor of the bill. During floor debate, she said that RU-486 is dangerous and needs more supervision during administration.

The drug is so dangerous that it was banned in places like Canada and China, places that are very liberal on abortion policies in general,” Peppin said.

Peppin’s claim misses the mark.

The Evidence

Medical abortion is available in Canada, but RU-486 has not been approved there.

Health Canada, which is in charge of approving drugs, would not comment on whether RU-486 is up for approval. But groups that support RU-486 there say the process is ongoing.

Canadian organizations that oppose RU-486 have raised concerns over the drug’s safety, pointing to deaths stemming from septic shock. Some of these groups single out a 2001 case that reportedly involved a woman involved in a RU-486 clinical trial.

China, on the other hand, has long allowed the drug. In fact, it was one of two countries where the drug was originally licensed.

Peppin did not respond to PoliGraph’s request for sourcing.

The Verdict

To say that RU-486 has been banned in Canada is misleading. It hasn’t been approved, though it’s unclear if that will ever happen.

Meanwhile, it’s false that China has banned the drug.

On balance, this claim leans toward false.

Update:

After this story was published, Rep. Peppin raised some concerns about our ruling. She sent two articles – one from 2001 and one from 2008 – citing a Chinese news report and a state drug agency announcement that RU-486 could not be sold in pharmacies.

PoliGraph could not find the original Chinese news reports or a statement from the nation’s drug authorities cited in those articles.

A 2001 article from China.org states that drugstores are not allowed to sell the drug because of some of the side-effects, which can include bleeding and cramping. Rather, the drug must be administered in hospitals.

But that doesn’t mean the drug is banned in China. In fact, it’s widely used and has been for a long time.

A 2012 study in the International Journal of Women’s Health makes this clear. According to the study, which compared the effectiveness of the RU0486 dosage regimen recommended by the World Health Organization and the regimen Chinese patients take, studied the experiences of 337 Chinese women who took the drug in clinics around the country.

According to the report, “Approximately two million women in China use this regimen annually.”

PoliGraph weighed the additional evidence, and found that there’s no reason to change the verdict on this claim.

SOURCES

H.F. No. 2341, accessed April 20, 2012

Minnesota Public Radio News, Abortion bills part of end-of-session mix, by Elizabeth Dunbar, April 19, 2012

Will Canada follow US lead on RU 486?, by Barbara Sibbald,

National Abortion Federation, Frequently Asked Questions about Mifepristone, June 2008

Contraception, Review of medical abortion using mifepristone in combination with a prostaglandin analogue, July 2006

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, RU486: A risky and deadly abortion drug, accessed April 20, 2012

The Interim, Canadian dies in RU-486 trials, by Tony Gosgnach, October 20, 2001

National Academies Press, A Political History of RU-486, by R. Alta Charo, 1991

Joyce Arthur, Executive Director, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, April 19, 2012

Olivia Caron, Health Canada, April 20, 2012