RU486 option for some


TWEED women already have close access to abortion clinics, unlike women in Lismore and Byron Bay, but some could prefer to use the drug RU486 if the controversial abortion pill is approved by health authorities.

The chairwoman of the North Coast Area Health Service Advisory Council, Dr Sue Page, said two fertility control clinics at Tweed Heads specialised in pregnancy termination and contraception.

But she said some women might choose to deal directly with their own doctors if GPs were given powers to supply RU486.

Lennox Heads-based Dr Page, who is also director of education at Southern Cross University's rural health department, said last week's parliamentary vote to allow the Therapeutic Goods Administration to take control of the approvals process for RU486, instead of the Health Minister, did not mean the drug would soon become readily available.

Dr Page said it could be some time yet, even a few years, before the TGA completed detailed analysis of medical research and pos-sible new testing of the drug, which is available overseas, before any decision was made on the future of RU486 in Australia.

She said if the drug was approved, it was possible GPs with additional relevant qualifications could be allowed to supply it in conjunction with an increased focus on pregnancy counselling.

Dr Page said some women might feel more comfortable talking with their GPs about pregnancy termination rather than visiting abortion clinics.

She said availability of RU486 outside Tweed Heads, especially in rural areas of the Northern Rivers, might assist women who otherwise would have to travel north for terminations.

She stressed that any decision to provide RU486 needed to include extra counselling and other health resources for women.

She said the North Coast Area Health Service Advisory Council had not formulated a view on RU486.

She said pregnancy terminations at present require an assessment of the health of the foetus and mother.

In NSW, terminations cannot be performed beyond the 20th week and in Queensland beyond the 24th week.

The Daily News yesterday contacted two abortion clinics in Tweed Heads, but doctors and staff declined to comment.

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