U.S. Representatives Jim DeMint (R, S.C.), Roscoe Bartlett (R, Maryland) and Senator Sam Brownback (R, Kansas) on Nov. 6 introduced “Holly’s Law” -technically known as the RU-486 Suspension and Review Act of 2003. The legislation was presented with 59 original co-sponsors in the House, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R, Texas). Brownback is introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

Monty and Helen Patterson, the parents of 18-year-old Holly Patterson who died in October after taking RU-486, offered a letter of support for the bill. “We have lost our daughter, Holly, but we can still help to prevent this terrible tragedy from happening in other families. It’s time for Congress to act before more women needlessly suffer in silence,” said the letter.

“What makes Holly Patterson’s untimely death even more tragic is that it was preventable,” DeMint said. “When the Clinton administration rushed approval of RU-486 in its waning days in 2000, many members of Congress knew that the FDA cut corners and compromised safety. We should not have to wait for another death before Congress suspends the FDA’s approval of RU-486 and conducts an independent review of the irregular procedures the FDA used to push this drug onto the market.”

One irregular aspect of the FDA’s approval process for RU-486, DeMint said, was the its decision to approve RU-486 under a protocol reserved for drugs intended to treat life-threatening illnesses.

“Defining pregnancy as a life-threatening illness was a thoroughly political, not scientific, decision. Any reasonable person committed to protecting the health and safety of women should conclude that the approval process for RU-486 deserves an independent review,” said DeMint, noting that when Baltimore Orioles reliever Steve Bechler died after taking the supplement Ephedra, Congress held hearings and government officials praised athletic organizations for banning the substance.

At least three other women have died from RU-486 in North America and at least 13 have required blood transfusions due to excessive blood loss. In five to eight per cent of cases, RU-486 causes severe complications. Danco, the drug’s manufacturer, has reported at least 400 adverse events since RU-486 was approved.

“If airplanes were as dangerous as RU-486, no reasonable woman would ever fly. This deadly drug needs to be grounded immediately and safety procedures need to be reviewed before more women are put at risk,” DeMint said, observing that a woman is 200 times more likely to be injured or killed from RU-486 than in an airplane crash. “People on both sides of the abortion debate should not be distracted from the fact that the health and safety of American women is being compromised by RU-486 safety guidelines that are more lenient than in France.”