Abortion Pill Requires Parent's OK

Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia law requiring parental notification before minors have abortions applies to the abortion pill RU-486, state officials concluded.

Virginia is one of 32 states with parental notification or consent laws for minors seeking an abortion but it may be the first to say its law applies to RU-486. Other states are expected to follow suit, abortion rights activists say.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the pill late last month after a decade of study, raising a host of legal, political and medical issues.

Attorney General Mark Earley, who sponsored Virginia's parental notification law in 1997 when he was a state senator, had his staff evaluate the law in light of the FDA's action.

Earley concluded the law would apply to RU-486, as well as another law that requires doctors to tell a parent before dispensing any medication to a minor, said Earley's spokesman, David Botkins.

It was unclear whether Medicaid funds will be available for women seeking the drug. Virginia law denies the use of public money for a surgical abortion except in cases of rape, incest or if the woman's life is in danger.

Other states with parental notification requirements are expected to rule similarly on RU-486, said Betsy Cavendish, legal director of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

The laws ``were not written with either surgical or medical (abortion) in mind but rather with the intent to get parents involved and to discourage minors from having abortions,'' Cavendish said.

Other abortion rights supporters also agreed with Earley's interpretation on RU-486.

``Regardless of how I feel about that, that's the answer,'' Karen A. Raschke, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk for a story published Monday.

RU-486, which blocks a hormone vital to sustaining pregnancy, will be sold under the brand name Mifeprex. It will be available to doctors by the end of October.

Mifeprex works only during the first seven weeks of pregnancy, when an embryo is about one-fifth of an inch. Two days after taking the pill, women take a second drug that causes cramping and bleeding as the embryo is expelled, much like a miscarriage.

FDA studies have shown the pill to be 92 percent to 95 percent effective in causing abortion. Researchers say complications are rare, with serious bleeding in 1 percent of women.