Roussel Uclaf 38486 (RU 486), also known as mifepristone, has become a major focal point in today's society. RU 486 has one primary purpose, to abort an unborn child from its mother's womb. RU 486 has various projected uses that may be both beneficial and hazardous.
Etienne-Emile Baulieu (1991) defines RU 486 as " ¦a chemical compound that, taken in pill form, can induce abortion in women up to nine weeks pregnant. This compound gets the first part of its name from French company, Roussel Uclaf, which first developed the abortion pill back in 1980. The "486 designation is the shortened version of the original "38486 compound number that the pill was assigned in the Roussel Uclaf laboratory.
According to Daniel S. Levy (2000), mifepristone originated in France in 1980. In 1982, the Roussel Uclaf laboratory reported its first successful human testing of RU 486. In 1983, the population council received FDA approval to test RU 486 in the United States for six years, during which 300 women received the drug at the University of Southern California. The French Health Ministry went on to approve RU 486, combined with prostaglandin, in 1988, to use for medical abortion. (Gibbs 2000) The drug did not become available until the following year because of pressure from anti-abortion groups.
In June of 1989, President George Bush issued an import ban against the drug. He cited that the drug could result in widespread health problems. Then, when President Clinton took office in 1993, he lifted the ban on RU 486 that was previously imposed by President Bush. Finally, seven years later, after many tests and trials, the FDA approved RU 486 in September 2000.
Mifepristone has only been approved in a few European countries in the last few years. France, Britain, and Sweden had been the only countries to approve RU 486 until April of 1999, then Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, German