Fearing that the publicity surrounding RU 486, the French-made abortion-inducing pill that is now available throughout Europe, would create a demand in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration issued an import ban on the drug in June 1989. Agency officials argued that women in the U.S. might put themselves at risk if they used this non-FDA-approved drug to terminate their own pregnancies. Today, as a result of the ban, RU 486 supplies in the U.S., even for basic research purposes, are virtually nonexistent.

For the antiabortion forces, this was a great victory. For abortion rights activists, it represented a defeat, which they are now trying to reverse. In addition, some constituencies outside of the abortion rights battlefield claim to be suffering as a result of the import prohibition. They are patients with cancer and Cushing's disease, among other disorders, whose health, in preliminary clinical studies, has been shown...

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