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House OKs ban on funding for abortion drugs

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The government would be barred from using taxpayer dollars to test, develop or approve drugs that induce abortion - such as the French abortion pill RU-486 - under legislation passed by the House.

But the ban is unlikely to survive the Senate.Abortion opponents claimed victory after the vote Wednesday, while women's advocates assailed the action as an assault on their constitutional right to end unwanted pregnancies.

"The federal government has no right to use taxpayer dollars to develop abortion drugs," said Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sponsor of an amendment prohibiting such spending by the Food and Drug Administration. "The business of the FDA is to protect lives, not facilitate death."

The amendment, adopted 223-202, was attached to a spending bill providing $55.9 billion for agriculture and nutrition programs in fiscal 1999. The House approved the overall bill 373-48. The Senate may consider its version of the legislation next month but is unlikely to adopt the ban.