NEW YORK—Pro-life advocates celebrated approval of the new anti-abortion drug UR-86 by the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday, calling it a "safe and effective method" for terminating pregnant women while leaving their unborn children unharmed.
Pfizer, manufacturer of UR-86—dubbed the "last-morning-ever pill"—said the drug is intended only for occasions when the mind-set or politics of the mother threaten the life of the fetus.
"This drug is designed for extreme cases in which the mother cannot or should not be saved, or when her health has been placed before that of her unborn child," Pfizer spokesman Anthony Wright said.
The orally ingested drug first tests for the presence of a fetus. If the outcome is positive, a near-lethal dose of barbiturates is released, which induces a coma in the expectant mother until the child is born, at which point a second, fatal dose is released.
The FDA's approval came after months of clinical trials firmly established that the fetus would be nourished and protected in the womb of the near-deceased UR-86 user.
Gender-equality advocates praised the introduction of the drug, calling it an "innovative solution" to the highly polarizing national abortion debate.
"This is a step forward for equality," men's rights activist Charles Hackett said. "For too long, women have had an unfair advantage in the outcome of a pregnancy. UR-86 levels the playing field for husbands and boyfriends across America."
Pro-life advocates, many of whom had petitioned the FDA to approve UR-86 while the drug was still in the research-and-development stage, also reacted warmly to the FDA's decision. Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, praised the new pharmaceutical for its potential use in cases of rape and incest, saying it could help end the shame and humiliation of such trauma while saving the life of the fetus.
"Victims of sexual assault can feel trapped, like they've got nowhere to turn," Terry said. "Now, they can solve their deep, internal problems once and for all, without unfairly condemning their children."
Yet critics say UR-86's prescription-only status and the fact that most health insurance plans do not cover the drug limit its effectiveness, as it is not available to those who need it most.
"If people can't afford the drug or get it prescribed on short notice, they're not going to have enough time to act, especially when their wives want to end the pregnancy fast," men's issues commentator Stan Dynes said. "UR-86 should be made available over the counter as soon as possible. It's the husband's right to choose if this drug is right for him, and neither the government nor the medical elite should get in the way of that decision."
Pfizer trials showed that UR-86 can do nothing for the fetus if an abortion procedure is performed. "If the mother is administered the pill the morning after an abortion, the fetus cannot be revived because it won't be there," Pfizer's Wright said. "It will still terminate the mother, though."
Conversely, some lawmakers are uneasy with the concept of ready access to the anti-abortion pill.
Tuesday night, South Dakota legislators introduced a bill to impose a five-day waiting period for teenage girls and women before they can buy the pill, claiming its use does not adequately safeguard the lifestyle of the father, the laundry of the father, or the favorite meals of the father. The legislators cited Pfizer's own published list of side effects of UR-86, which include domestic messiness, already-born-child neglect, and inadequate stocking of the fridge.
Still, Pfizer anticipates not only that the drug will be popular with husbands, but also that, once available over the counter, UR-86 will likely find a large consumer base in mothers-in-law, downstairs neighbors, and extramarital lovers.