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Australian churches protest bill that would ease access to abortion drug

.- Christians across Australia held a National Day of Action Against RU486 on Sunday, protesting a bill that would loosen controls over importation of the abortion drug, which has been linked to at least five deaths in the United States and Canada.

Many Catholic and Protestant churches have been supporting a national campaign to defeat the bill, which would remove the health minister's authority to approve access to RU486 and give that authority to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, reported CNSNews.com.

While the drug is not officially banned in Australia, legislation passed in 1996 requires special permission from the health minister for its use.

Some churches have circulated petitions, while the letter-writing campaign, organized by the coaltion Australians Against RU486 at more than 500 churches, has generated about 75,000 letters to individual senators.

Public hearings will be held on the bill late this week and a report will be submitted to Parliament Feb. 8. The bill will be put to a vote Feb. 9.

RU486 is marketed as Mifeprex in the United States. Last July, the FDA issued a public health advisory after the drug manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, said it had received reports of five women in the U.S. and Canada dying after taking the drug.

RU486, the drug mifepristone, is legal in more than 30 countries and last year the World Health Organization controversially added it to its list of "essential medicines."

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