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As a matter of fact, it was during last year's debate that drug companies stated that researchers and pharmaceutical companies would be less likely to invest in drugs that might cause miscarriages, and currently many drugs do have this side effect.
So if disease- or condition-specific approval is dictated by legislative action, we are in big trouble. So I urge my colleagues to vote against this amendment.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. WELDON), and I would note for the House that he is a medical doctor.
Mr. WELDON of Florida. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and as Yogi Berra said, ``It's like deja vu all over again.'' We are having this argument now and it is the same set of arguments as we had last year when the Coburn amendment passed the House, I believe by a margin of 223 to 202. I would encourage all my colleagues to vote in support of the Coburn amendment.
I believe very strongly that this is a very reasonable and prudent amendment. As has been very, very clearly stated by the gentleman from Oklahoma, when these pharmaceutical companies, medical schools, individuals put in these applications for new drug approval, they put down what its indication is. And the Coburn language is very specific. We had a ruling from the Chair on this issue last year. If the specific indication is to induce chemical abortion, under the provision of his amendment they will be barred from doing that.
Now, I practiced internal medicine for 15 years prior to coming to the House. I still see patients occasionally on weekends. I have had the unfortunate experience of diagnosing people with cancer; indeed, the even more unfortunate experience of seeing many of my patients die. And I would not support any amendment that in any way would interfere with the new development and approval of drugs for the treatment of cancer. And I think it is very disingenuous for anybody to imply that this amendment would have that kind of an implication. This amendment is very, very clear in its language. It is very, very well targeted.
I would also like to point out that what we are talking about today is very, very significant. The FDA has been around for years, and it has safeguarded the American people from the introduction of many potentially dangerous drugs. A great example of this is thalidomide, a drug that was introduced in Europe and produced terrible birth defects. But our American Food and Drug Administration never approved that drug and, thus, prevented millions of American babies from being born with such a type of malformation.
The Food and Drug Administration has never had a drug application before it where the specific intent of the drug was to lead to the death of an unborn baby. Now, abortion, obviously, is a very controversial issue. Every time these issues come up, the arguments are very, very impassioned. And they should be because it is an issue of life and death.
We all know that the baby in the womb has a beating heart. At 40 days it has detectable brain waves. Those are the criteria that I used to use when I practiced medicine to make a determination as to whether or not somebody was dead or alive. So this is a very, very significant issue. And to have the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reviewing a drug and approving a drug where its intended purpose is to kill the unborn baby in the womb, I think, is very, very inappropriate. I think it is very, very appropriate for us to speak on this issue. So, therefore, I would encourage all of my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the Coburn amendment.
I just want to touch on one additional issue that has come up in the course of this debate, and that is the reported possible link between abortion and breast cancer. My colleagues, I have reviewed the studies on this issue and the studies are very, very compelling that there really is a link. The statement released by the NCI, I believe, is a very disingenuous statement. It really sincerely ignores the facts on this issue.
If my colleagues actually take the time to read the studies, it is very, very bothersome to me that there are a lot of people within the cancer research community that are turning a blind eye to this issue.
Now, finally, let me close by saying the President of the United States once
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Might I also say that there has been absolutely no effort on the part of the administration to truly make abortion rare. Indeed, in trying to push through something like this, we are in many ways trying to facilitate abortion, trying to make it easier, make it more common. And I do not think we should be going in that direction.
I applaud the gentleman for introducing this amendment, and I encourage everyone to support it.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that I be allowed to manage the time of the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. KAPTUR).
The CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from New York?
There was no objection.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. BENTSEN).
(Mr. BENTSEN asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. BENTSEN. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to this amendment offered by the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN).
The author of this amendment may, in fact, believe that it is narrowly drawn and will not affect other research that is being done, but I think his comments a few speakers ago, when the gentleman from California was talking, that he was willing to accept a clarifying amendment, indicates even a specter of doubt in his own mind that there may be a problem with this amendment.
The fact is, even with the ruling of the Chair, this issue would not be decided by the Chair; it is ultimately decided across the street at the Supreme Court.
That is what is to happen if we go through with this type of amendment because it may address RU-486 today, but it will open the door for lawsuits to address other types of research tomorrow and it will not be decided in this body or in the other body, it will be decided in the courts. This is a very dangerous precedent-setting amendment that takes the Congress, in my opinion, down the wrong path where we do not want to go.
The gentleman raised the issue of drive-through mastectomies and drive-through deliveries, and, yes, voted for those. I do not know if the gentleman did or not. I think that is a dangerous position for us to take. But here we are going even further. And I think this amendment is so broadly drawn that it creates a serious problem, and I think the House ought to reject it.
Our other colleague from Indiana talked about removing the veneer. Well, let us do remove the veneer. This is not just about RU-486. This is about chipping away once again at ``Roe v. Wade'' and getting this in front of the Supreme Court again and seeing if they can overturn a woman's right to choose. That is what this is about. But in the wake of doing that, it creates a lot of damage in the research world.
I hope my colleagues will oppose this poorly drafted amendment.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 3 minutes to the gentlewoman from Connecticut (Mrs. JOHNSON) who is, I might say, in opposition to my amendment.
Mrs. JOHNSON of Connecticut. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me, knowing that I oppose his amendment. And I do oppose his amendment very strongly.
The law of the land is that abortion is legal, whether we like it or not. The law of the land and Supreme Court decisions have given women total control over the decision of whether they will get pregnant and carry a pregnancy during the first trimester. That right is compromised as the fetus grows and women have essentially no right to abortion except under extreme circumstances that are life-threatening toward the end of their pregnancy.
Now, that is simply the law of the land. If my colleagues do not like it, bring a bill to ban abortion, and let us debate that on the floor as the representatives of the people. Let us see if America wants a policy that bans abortion.
Italy has reversed their policy banning abortion because if we ban abortion, we just raise the number of women who die, who die getting illegal abortions. And we know that that was true in our history.
When we first made abortions legal, the big change was not an increase in abortions, because there was not any increase in abortion. The big change was a radical, precipitous decline in maternal deaths. So, mark my words, this is about abortion. Women have a right to abortion and they have a right to a variety of safe, legal procedures. Women in Europe have had access to this method for 20 years.
This is not about thalidomide. This is about something that women in Europe have used for 20 years. Our FDA has reviewed it on the basis of science. That is their job. And under that standard, they have found it to be an effective agent. And women have every bit as great a right in America to a pharmaceutical agent as they do to the surgical procedures. Why would men, in America particularly, want to make the decision for women that they have to go, in a sense, under the knife rather than taking a pharmaceutical pill?
So this is, by gum, about a woman's right to choose and the right to abortion in the very earliest months when even there may not have been any fertilization of the egg. This is not necessarily an abortive phase. It depends on what happened and what did not happen, which they do not know at the time they take it. It is a very big advance. And to deny it and stop it on the floor this way is to indicate that we will approach contraceptive research the same way and that we will narrow rigorously the options available to women to manage their reproductive capability and, with it, their health.
I strongly oppose this amendment. This Congress should not be banning by procedure methods of abortion.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to respond to the gentleman from Florida (Mr. WELDON) who I believe has left the floor.
But he referred to this administration and said they have done nothing to make abortion rare. I would invite him and my other colleagues to join us in supporting our contraceptive coverage bill, because that is really the way we reduce the number of abortions. Having the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan and other private insurance plans cover contraceptives will reduce the number of abortions, and the administration has been strongly supportive of that.
Mr. Chairman, I am delighted to yield 2 minutes to my colleague, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. WOOLSEY).
(Ms. WOOLSEY asked and was given permission to revise and extend her remarks.)
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to the Coburn amendment.
In my first term in the House of Representatives in 1993, during the Year of the Woman, with my good sisters and a good number of men, we fought here on the House floor so that the United States could have expanded healthy alternatives to surgical abortions. We supported research development and availability of drugs for medical abortions, like RU-486, in the United States.
Since then, I have witnessed RU-486 being made available in Europe, while here in our country in the United States, here in this Congress, we have had to fight back the far right's constant blows against RU-486 and women's health in general.
I am saddened to say it, but this is the same attack by the conservatives as last year and the year before and the year before that. This amendment seeks to deny women the right to early and safe drugs, such as RU-486, when faced with a crisis pregnancy. Further, because it bans the Federal Drug Administration from approving drugs like RU-486, it represents an unprecedented threat to the FDA's approval process.
Let us make no mistake about it. These repeat attacks are an unwarranted intrusion on a woman's life and a woman's right to good health, and this attack is by the extreme right. Let
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Once again, I urge my colleagues, vote against the Coburn amendment, vote for women and women's health.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Washington State (Mr. MCDERMOTT).
Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Chairman, I think, as a physician, I listen to this debate and it is very interesting to watch us practice medicine out here on the floor of the House of Representatives.
It is pretty clear that if the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) wanted to ban RU-486, that is what he would have put in this amendment. But it is very clear that this is not what the intention is. The intention is to get a law out there that they can then get involved in lawsuits. It is a very well-known political strategy over the last 10 years to start something and get involved in the courts and tie it up forever.
Now, if they have pharmaceutical companies, and the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) knows this, they screen all kinds of drugs. Right now, I heard thalidomide mentioned here on the floor. And it became a very bad drug because of its effects on newborn babies and causing defects. It is now being used for another illness. And when pharmaceutical companies screen, they do not know exactly what it is going to be used for. And what they are essentially doing here is opening the door for a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company who comes to the FDA, having spent $20 or $40 or $100 million developing a drug, and if somebody says, this causes abortion, therefore, we have a cause of action against them and we stop it, they are interfering in a process that is presently legal.
A woman has a right to an abortion, and pharmaceutical companies have a right to develop drugs to do that in a very safe way. And for us to get into that position, the logical slope that they are headed down here, has already been mentioned. The next thing will be, when the sperm meets the egg, if that is a baby, then the next thing is going to be we must ban all birth control.
We already have difficulty getting birth control paid for by the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. And so we know what is in their minds. But beyond that, the next thing will be an amendment out here on maybe the HHS appropriation to prevent any money from being used for medical school training of any school that trains anybody to do abortions. Because if we go back and back and back up the stream, why should we waste money training physicians, obstetricians, in the skill of doing a safe abortion? We should not because they are ending the life of a child, and we get into all this inflammatory rhetoric.
Now, everybody knows that is wrong. And this amendment is just the beginning of it. It is designed to do that and it is designed to hide what it is up to.
Mrs. LOWEY. Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to yield 2 1/2 minutes to my colleague, the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. MALONEY).
Mrs. MALONEY of New York. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me the time for her leadership on this issue.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition. This is an antichoice, an antiscience science amendment. It is not just about RU-486. It is about FDA's ability to test, research, and approve any drug based on sound scientific evidence which may have as a side effect a miscarriage. It could slow or stop research on a wide range of life-saving drugs.
Science, not politics, should determine what drugs are approved. This is why the National Coalition for Cancer Research, the American Medical Assocation, the American Public Health Association, among others, oppose this amendment.
Many drugs, including chemotherapy and antiulcer medication, have the side effects of inducing abortion. This is why pregnant women are advised against taking certain medications.
One of the drugs targeted by this amendment, mefipristone, is not just a drug to make abortion safer. It has also shown to be useful in treating uterine fibrosis, endometriosis, glaucoma, and certain breast cancer tumors.
Another drug targeted by this amendment, methotrexate, has also been used to treat a wide array of conditions including arthritis, lupus, and some forms of cancerous tumors. Blocking research and development of safe and effective drugs in the name of abortion politics is just plain wrong. Never before has Congress told the FDA to approve or disapprove of a particular drug.
This vote is the 108th antichoice vote before this Congress since the new majority came to power. We should not be attempting to appeal or repeal a woman's right to choose procedure by procedure. This is antiscience, antichoice, antiwoman. I urge a ``no'' vote.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, might I inquire of the time remaining?
The CHAIRMAN. The gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) has 23 1/2 minutes remaining. The gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. LOWEY) has 27 minutes remaining.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. DEMINT).
Mr. DEMINT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment, because I think it is important for this Congress to change the culture of this country by renewing our commitment to the value of life. This is not the time to send a signal to all Americans that abortions of convenience are a way to solve the problem of promiscuity and recreational sex. It is a hoax on the American people and women, in particular, to suggest that this is a healthy way to handle an unwanted pregnancy. We must not send the signal that it is easy as a pill to end an unwanted pregnancy.
This is one of the most important issues facing our country today, because as we look around at the violence and the apparent disregard for life in every walk of life, we have got to question if this type of ease in ending life is contributing to that. This amendment will do what it needs to do in stopping the approval of a way of life in America, in restoring value to life to all ages in America.
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