Link Between Infections,

Abortion Pill Is Examined

The government warned doctors yesterday to watch for rare but deadly infections in women using the abortion pill RU-486.

At least five U.S. women have died after taking the pill since it began selling in 2000, although the Food and Drug Administration stressed that it could not prove the drug was to blame.

The four deaths caused by bloodstream infections, or sepsis, all occurred in women who did not follow FDA-approved instructions for a pill-triggered abortion, agency drug chief Steven Galson said. Still, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning doctors of the possible link.

The drug, sold by Danco Laboratories, is approved to terminate pregnancy up to 49 days after the beginning of the last menstrual cycle. When followed by another medicine, misoprostol, the pregnancy is terminated. The FDA's instructions call for women to swallow both pills, but most abortion clinics instead instruct that the misoprostol tablet be inserted into the vagina, Galson said.

Fewer Child Deaths,

Births to Adolescents

The adolescent birthrate has reached another record low, the death rate for children between ages 1 and 4 is the lowest ever, and young children are more likely than ever to get their recommended immunizations, the annual U.S. government report on children found.

But white children are healthier than black or Hispanic children, and black children are much more likely to die violently, be assaulted or suffer some other violent crime.

About 83 percent are reported by their parents to be in very good or excellent health, said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, and fewer children are dying. In 2002, there were 31 deaths for every 100,000 children in the 1 to 4 age group, down from 33 deaths per 100,000 in 2001.

The adolescent birth rate for 2003 was 22 for every 1,000 girls age 15 to 17, down from 23 in 2002 and down from 39 births for every 1,000 girls in 1991. The rate of births to black or Hispanic teenagers is about double that of births to white teenagers, the report found.

Crew Moves Soyuz Craft

To Prepare for Spacewalk

The crew of the international space station moved the Soyuz craft yesterday in a 30-minute maneuver that will allow it to carry out a spacewalk next month.

Russian expedition commander Sergei Krikalev, 45, and flight engineer John Phillips, 54, left the space station in the Soyuz craft and reattached the capsule at a different docking point about a half-hour later.

The operation will allow the two astronauts to use the station's Pirs airlock module for a spacewalk next month and another in September, when they will install and monitor scientific experiments, NASA said.

The Russian Soyuz craft was used in November 2000 to take the first crew to the space station kept there should the astronauts need to return to Earth unexpectedly.

-- From News Services