The Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia has authorised abortion provider Marie Stopes International to use RU486 under special licensing to give desperately ill people access to drugs not available in this country.
The TGA denied it had watered down controls on the abortion drug, which was effectively banned in Australia until three years ago, The Australian reported.
Marie Stopes said the federal regulator had agreed to broaden its definition of the "life threatening or otherwise serious" illnesses that could be treated with foreign drugs under the Authorised Prescriber Scheme.
It can now offer women the choice of medical and standard surgical abortions at its nine clinics in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT.
Women have to be less than nine weeks pregnant and meet eligibility criteria covering standard surgical abortions, the news report said.
"We argued that pregnancy is a condition that may be both serious and life threatening in particular circumstances," said Jill Michelson, the organisation's national clinical adviser.
"What is undeniable is the fact that the risk to a pregnant woman of induced abortion is much less than the risk of continuing a pregnancy through to delivery at term," she said.
Anti-abortion groups were critical. Queensland GP David van Gend, who campaigned against RU486 for a group known as the World Federation of Doctors who Respect Human Life, disputed the scientific basis of the argument advanced by Marie Stopes.
"For an abortion clinic to argue that having a baby is so dangerous that you need to save women from that ... is medically highly suspect," Dr van Gend said yesterday from his surgery in Toowoomba. "Instead, you are at a far higher risk of suiciding after aborting a baby... I suspect only selective data has been looked at to make such a puzzling conclusion on abortion."
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Abortion pill rules loosened at clinics (The Australian)
Abortion pill 'would benefit rural women' (ABC)
Abortion debate gets messier still (Brisbane Times, AAP)