Answers to questions asked in parliamentary estimates have revealed the extent of complications for women who use the drug RU486 to abort their children, and the rapid take-up of this method of pregnancy termination.

Data released by the Therapeutic Goods Administration to Tasmanian Liberal Senator Guy Barnett show use of RU486 soared in the second half of last year after a national chain of day clinics was licensed to use it. Terminations using RU486 rose from none to 1154 between July and December in New South Wales, four to 323 in Queensland, and 42 to 412 in Victoria.

The data also reveal that in 14 Australian cases the drug, also known as mifepristone and mostly used with another drug, misoprostol, failed, and the termination had to be completed surgically. An additional 110 cases with “adverse effects” were reported. Reported complications involved retention of placenta remains and other “products of conception”.

In the four years since the contentious conscience vote in the Federal Parliament to remove the Health Minister’s ability to override the importation of RU486, more than 3000 abortions have been performed in Australia using the drug.

Obstetrician Caroline de Costa, who was prominent in the campaign to allow the use of RU486 in Australia, naturally downplayed the number of RU486 abortion complications, saying it was consistent with overseas figures.

The TGA data show that, as expressed during the heated parliamentary debate over RU486, it is not a safe option for women, and it puts at greater risk the lives of society’s most vulnerable and innocent people – its unborn.