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 [Page: H3806]
us get the far right out of women's health, get politics out of science, and allow the FDA to determine what drugs are safe for women.
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. 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.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman from Ohio for yielding me this time, because I would like to devote my time to why I think there is confusion about this amendment. The gentleman may be a doctor, but in drawing his amendment it is clear that he is not a lawyer. He says he has drawn an amendment to stop the FDA from approving RU-486. The language he has used instructs us on an amendment to stop the FDA from testing drugs that can treat cancer, high blood pressure, ectopic pregnancy,
fibroids, epilepsy. The list is very long. The reason is that although the gentleman mysteriously says that he would accept an amendment to limit the language, he does not propose language of that kind. Why has he brought broad language here?
The reason that his language is defective is that, in the law, it is overinclusive and overbroad. Therefore, in the words he used, it must have unintended effects. In the law it is called a chilling effect. What that means in this case is that a pharmaceutical company will not come forward with a drug that may cure cancer because that company believes it may be sued because of the overinclusive language he has used. It ought to stop every Member in this body when they know that every chemotherapy
drug can cause a miscarriage. If, in fact, this amendment had been in the law at the time these drugs were being produced, people who are alive today by the hundreds of thousands would be dead.
I ask you, how many people would be dead today if we consider how many drugs are on the market that have unintended effects that none of us could possibly approve, deadly effects? That is why politics and medicine, or politics and science are like oil and water. You get into politicians overreaching [Page: H3807]
when you insert political judgments into what should be only scientific matters.
Nor is this one of those great ethical issues on the frontiers of science, where ethicists and politicians have some reason to intrude, because abortion is legal, and I regret to say that miscarriages are also legal. We are entitled to ask, where does it begin, where will it end? I believe we must today let it end with legitimate scientific research. If we care anything about the many drugs that will be stopped by this amendment, we must defeat the Coburn amendment.
Mr. McDERMOTT. Mr. Chairman, in the earlier debate I did not say something that I think needs to be said out here. We hear all these polls, that the American people do not like abortion and all this stuff. But I would tell you, in the election of 1998 in the State of Washington, the issue of partial-birth abortion was on the ballot, and the people turned it down.
Now, you can tell me all you want about polls but the only poll that really matters is when people actually come out and vote. I believe that the gentlewoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. NORTON) has really put her finger on the whole issue. Because if you open up a cause of action against every pharmaceutical company that brings anything to the market or to the FDA for approval that might cause an abortion, you are going to chill the pharmaceutical industry, which is exactly the
reverse of what I see in the appropriations process. We put all this money into the National Institutes of Health because we treasure our health care system, including the pharmaceutical industry. It is a bad amendment.
Mr. NADLER. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong opposition to this amendment. This amendment would ban FDA approval of RU-486 which has been found safe and effective for early, nonsurgical abortion and is awaiting final approval by the FDA. RU-486 would expand access to safe abortion for American women. Its consideration for approval should be dependent on the science, not dictated by antichoice ideologues.
This debate is not about RU-486 or abortion. It is about the FDA's ability to test, research, and approve any drugs for a legal purpose based on sound scientific evidence. Reproductive health drugs should be subject to the FDA's strict science-based requirements that any drug must meet before approval can be granted, but they should not be singled out because they are reproductive health drugs.
The FDA found mifepristone which has been available in Europe widely for nearly 20 years, safe and effective for early medical abortion 3 years ago. The approval was based on extensive clinical trials in this country and in France. They await information on manufacturing and labeling of the drug before final approval can be issued.
This amendment could have dangerous implications for the development of drugs that are used for purposes other than terminating a pregnancy. Many drugs, including those for chemotherapy and antiulcer medication, have the side effect of inducing an abortion. That is why pregnant women are advised that taking such a medication could imperil their pregnancy. New developments in the treatment of these and other conditions, for cancer and for other conditions, would be prohibited under the broad scope
of this amendment. New contraceptive development would also be targeted.
Mr. Chairman, the right to abortion services should be safe and legal. The Supreme Court grants this right. What this amendment would do, even at the price of letting people who otherwise would not have to die from cancer, die from cancer because it would prevent the development, the approval of certain chemotherapies, what this would do is to deny the FDA the right to approve a drug simply because it would do what is legal and is a guaranteed right and that, Mr. Chairman, is wrong. That is why
the amendment should be rejected.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
We have heard again the tactic from the other side, it is to misdirect, to dodge. This is not about creating lawsuits. This is not about preventing drug research in other areas. This amendment is written very clearly. I would happily have taken an amendment from the gentleman from California (Mr. WAXMAN) because then I would have felt he would have been obligated to vote for the amendment, and that is why he would not offer it. We understand that.
This is about spending Federal money in a way to figure out how to kill unborn children. That is what this amendment is about. There is no ulterior motive to it. It is saying, is it a principle position of this country to tax working families and then take that money and spend it on science on how to figure out how to kill an unborn baby. That is what this amendment does. They know that is what it does. The only thing that we are hearing is that this will limit cancer research, this will make
unintended consequences. That is not true at all. Having been in the drug manufacturing business, having applied for NDAs and INDs, I understand full well how the FDA works. There is an area on the application. You have to specify what you are applying that drug for. If it is for anything other than the inducement of abortion, this law will have no effect.
The other side understands that but they do not have an argument against that, so, therefore, they use an argument that is not based on any intellectual honesty. It is based on a dishonest pass out of bounds. This is about, and I am not ashamed to say, I do not think one dollar of Federal taxpayer money should be used to figure out how to kill an unborn child. I have no embarrassment for that whatsoever. I am proud to make that statement.
If we look at what is going on in our country, we understand where violence comes from. The first act of violence is to violate a baby in its mother's womb. When we decide that that life has no value, then no life has value, regardless of what the Supreme Court said. At 19 days postconception, a baby has a heartbeat. At 41 days postconception, the baby has brain waves. In this country, in every State, in every territory you are alive if you have brain waves and a heartbeat, and you are only dead
if you do not. So explain to me why a baby at 5 1/2 weeks postconception is not considered alive when if you are considered the opposite of that, you are considered dead. We are schizophrenic in our law because we cannot have equal justice under the law for the unborn when we want the convenience of doing what we in fact know is wrong.
Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the honorable gentleman from Illinois (Mr. HYDE), the chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary.
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I thank the distinguished ranking member of the committee for yielding me this time and for her great service on the Subcommittee on Agriculture.
Mr. Chairman, I want to respond to some of the comments made by the distinguished gentleman from Illinois (Mr. HYDE), and distinguished and respected he is. He talked about the chemical warfare that we would be waging on the unborn. But I want to point out to my colleagues that the Hyde amendment allows for termination of a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest and life of the mother. If this is indeed the Hyde amendment and what the gentleman from Illinois believes and those who support
the Hyde amendment, then why would they not want to have women have access to safe, early, nonsurgical abortion?
I certainly respect the gentleman's religious beliefs and understand them, as a Catholic, myself, and mother of five, grandmother of four, and that we do not think abortion is a good thing. Abortion is a failure, it is a failure across the board. But to deprive the FDA of the opportunity to engage in research which would provide safe, nonsurgical terminations of pregnancy in case of rape, incest and life of the mother seems entirely contradictory to what the amendment offered by the gentleman
from Illinois (Mr. HYDE) is, if he sincerely believes in that, and I do believe he is sincere. It would trample on the FDA's ability to test, research and approve drugs based on sound scientific evidence, and in that respect the amendment offered by the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) is starting to have this body, this room, this Chamber, look like the Flat Earth Society again, Mr. Chairman.
We have our Flat Earth Society days around here, and this appears to be one of them. RU-486 has been available to women in Europe for nearly 20 years. After extensive clinical trials in this country and France, the FDA has determined that this drug is safe and effective for an early medical abortion such as the kind allowed under the Hyde amendment for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
But this amendment is not about access to one safe and effective drug. The Coburn amendment would have a dangerous chilling effect on the development of drugs that are used for a wide variety of purposes, Mr. Chairman. Drugs used to treat other conditions including cancers and ulcers can induce abortion. The FDA's ability to consider approval of these therapies would be abolished.
And RU-486 also has promise for other potential medical uses including treatments for breast cancer, HIV and burns. The Coburn amendment forces researchers to turn away from these promising treatment opportunities.
Mr. Chairman, the Coburn amendment puts a social agenda ahead of a woman's needs, ahead of needs of individuals confronting a variety of diseases, ahead of rulemaking authority of the FDA. Once again, this Congress must decide whether to put political agendas ahead of health research.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to oppose the Coburn amendment.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I wonder if the gentlewoman from California (Ms. PELOSI) might stand and take a question? Might I inquire, and I would be happy to yield her to answer, what part of my amendment would eliminate RU-486 from being used in breast cancer research, burns or any other portion?
Ms. PELOSI. Mr. Chairman, I say the gentleman's amendment would have a chilling effect on the research. Medical research thrives, we have free and open inquiry.
Mr. COBURN. Reclaiming my time, there is nothing in the amendment that will have such an effect.
Again, we are seeing an attempt at characterizing the amendment in something other than it is. I understand why, because there is not a good factual argument against the Federal Government taking taxpayer dollars to figure out how to kill children. It is another part of the problem that we find ourselves in our society today.
There is nothing in this amendment that will limit in any way what the FDA can do if a drug manufacturer comes and uses, says I want to take 486 and get an indication for it for burns and breast cancer treatment; there is nothing in this amendment that will limit them from it. All they have to do is say that is what we are going to do with it.
And if they want to then let a doctor use it in an unapproved way, that is up to them. But to approve a drug for the very purpose of taking life goes against everything our country is founded on: the pursuit of life. And we are pursuing ways to take life.
Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MORAN of Virginia. Mr. Chairman, I wonder if the gentleman from Oklahoma is aware that NIH is currently looking at RU-486 as potentially a very effective method of addressing both breast cancer and brain tumors. They feel that there is a substantial potential with RU-486. That ability to research the capability of RU-486 would be completely terminated under this legislation.
So my colleague's suggestion is inconsistent with the facts.
Mr. COBURN. Mr. Chairman, there is nothing in this amendment that will keep a drug manufacturer or the manufacturer of RU-486 from making an application to use that drug in any way they want except the chemical inducement of abortion. That is a fact.
Mr. MORAN of Virginia. The lawyers' opinion is quite different, but I think we will make that point subsequently on the record.
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
It is very clear that we have a difference of philosophy and maybe religious beliefs. I happen to think that I am a person who believes in life and that I support the right to life. I also support the right-to-life decision-making being that of the woman, her God and her family, and what we are doing here is to now just intrude into the very infrastructure of government to be able to say that not even our Food and Drug Administration, which has the main responsibility of dealing with the drugs
that Americans take to heal themselves, now we are suggesting that even the most benign of drugs that may ultimately cause or induce a miscarriage, we now are prohibiting women, we are prohibiting those who have ulcers, those who have breast cancer, from even getting that fair treatment by the FDA doing that right kind of testing.
This interferes with the 30-day process that the Food and Drug Administration has for any new drug that, if they do not comment on it, the manufacturer can move forward. I think it is tragic when we as a government globally decide to interfere with the private rights of a woman and deny the good testing of a drug that may save lives.
I believe in life. I want to save lives. This amendment should be defeated.
Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from New York (Mr. WEINER).
Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume to close at this point.
Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the gentleman's amendment for many of the reasons that were stated earlier. The first one is that I do not think that this Congress should be prejudging medical science. We have talked this afternoon about how scientific discoveries and how science proceeds, often with unintended consequences. We have talked about how many of the drugs currently being used to treat mental illness in this country were discovered by accident.
They were not discovered in this country, they were discovered in France. They were discovered during operating room procedures when patients were trying to be put at ease and the process of pain remediated during operations, and, all of a sudden, for some reason, certain drugs worked. Eventually they came to this country, and even today we do not understand [Page: H3811]
why they work to help patients with serious mental illness. But for some in our population, they
have been able to be given great relief and help through those drugs.
The same was talked about with x-rays. When the scientists invented x-rays, it was an accident. They really went in there with one objective, and, all of a sudden, they made a mistake and it turned out to be an x-ray, and sometimes science is not quite as scientific as it seems. I think that this particular Chamber should not be judging what is science and what is not science.
For the amendment of the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN), which I would really encourage the Members to read if they are going to be voting on this, because I do not think his amendment says what he purports to do in his oral remarks here, but this amendment would absolutely set a dangerous precedent.
This Congress has never legislated the approval or disapproval of any drugs. That is the job of the Food and Drug Administration. We pay for scientists. We, as taxpayers, pay to make sure that what reaches our shelves is safe; but we do not prejudge what is medically relevant.
We also know that many drugs are tested at the end of use for treatment of more than one illness, disease, or condition. We do not really control that. So I would say that on the basis of science alone this amendment should be rejected.
I think that the committee also on which we serve, and we are a very responsible committee, we are the first one on this floor, we are trying to clear this bill under regular order, and I do believe that the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. COBURN) has been given sufficient time, actually a lot of time over the last several weeks, to express his points of view, which have been very well articulated.
But the truth is, our subcommittee never had any hearings on this particular matter. The reason is we are the Committee on Appropriations. We do not try to tell FDA what to do. We expect the authorizing committees will deal with that.
If my experience proves me right, my guess would be that if there are concerns about something that is inappropriate, that is best taken to the authorizing committees.
This amendment is not going to be in the Senate bill, and it is not going to become a part of the final legislation.
So I would say based on science, based on safe procedures, that this is something the FDA should be implementing, and also based on regular order, the gentleman's amendment should be defeated. I would urge my colleagues to do so.