Tom Mulcair warns Rona Ambrose against politics in RU-486 application

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is warning Health Minister Rona Ambrose not to let politics get in the way of an application to approve the abortion drug RU-486 for use in Canada.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he hopes 'politics is not in play' over application for abortion drug RU-486

Health Minister Rona Ambrose is being warned by New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair not to let her personal views on an abortion pill influence an application for the drug's approval by Health Canada. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is warning Health Minister Rona Ambrose not to let politics get in the way of an application to approve an abortion drug for use in Canada.

Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is being considered for approval by Health Canada. The drug can be used to end pregnancies of up to nine weeks and has been in use around the world since 1988 when it was first approved in France.

New drug approvals take about nine months, but that varies depending on whether Health Canada has to go back to a manufacturer for more information, a spokeswoman told CBC News in an email. The department has had the mifepristone application since December 2012.

Mulcair said the mifepristone application is taking longer than normal.

"I certainly hope that politics is not in play," Mulcair said.

"I know that Madame Ambrose has a history on this particular file, so I hope that her personal opinions are not stopping a health solution for some women who want to have [a medical abortion]."

There are no legal limits on abortion in Canada. It's mostly done surgically, although a drug called methotrexate can be prescribed off-label to end pregnancies of up to seven weeks.

Not up to politicians

Mulcair pointed to Ambrose's support for a 2012 motion considered to be a way to reopen the abortion debate. Ambrose voted in favour of Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth's motion to start a parliamentary committee to study when life begins.

"This is something that's available in over 50 countries. It's part of a woman's right to choose and I certainly hope that the Conservative-driven agenda isn't what's stopping this from being looked at within the normal time frame."

Ambrose's spokesman said in an email last week that it's up to scientists at Health Canada to decide on new drugs, not politicians.

Mulcair said he was also worried that Health Canada's deputy minister, George Da Pont, told the health committee last November that he didn't know his department was reviewing the application.

"I was a little bit alarmed to see that a senior officer from that department seemed to be completely unaware that the application was in process," Mulcair said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, asked after question period whether the application was taking too long, would say only that he hopes the department goes through the right process.

"I expect that Health Canada will go through the proper procedures, and I'm not a medical expert, so I trust that the scientists will do their work to make sure that it goes through the proper procedures," he said.