Abortion rights groups, funds and providers have grappled with the uncertain future of medical abortion after a pair of competing Federal Court rulings on Friday.
Melissa Fowler, program manager at the National Abortion Federation, said a decision in Texas to suspend FDA approval of mifepristone “sows chaos and confusion among abortion seekers.” Fowler highlighted the safety and effectiveness of mifepristone, which has long been hailed as safe by federal regulators and medical associations.
AND AFTER:Mifepristone rulings opened first major post-Roe abortion case at Supreme Court
SHOW:Vice President Harris reacts to Texas federal judge’s ruling on abortion pill
The chaotic legal landscape is expected to change rapidly over the next week. But right now “nothing is changing at all with respect to the availability of mifepristone,” said Andrew Beck, senior counsel for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project.
But what comes next is unclear.
Meanwhile, abortion providers and advocates across the country have reported another round of confusion and frustration.
BACKGROUND:Who is Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk and why was the abortion pill case before his court?
Do you want an abortion? :Here are options for pregnant women if mifepristone is suspended
FRIDAY:Dueling federal decisions cast future of abortion pill in legal uncertainty
“We have patients coming in for abortion services at our clinics today, so we had to find out quickly what this meant to us,” said Andrea Ferrigno, vice president of Whole Woman’s Health, a network of abortion clinics. “For patients, this is just another level of frustration, stress and confusion during an already stressful time.”
Whole Woman’s Health, which provides care in Minnesota, Virginia, Maryland, Indiana, New Mexico and Illinois, is among several abortion providers who told USA TODAY they will continue to offer mifepristone at this time. If clinics eventually lose access to the drug, many providers, including Whole Woman’s Health, said they would turn to misoprostol-only care. Some also said they could open more appointments for procedural abortions in the clinic.
In the United States, mifepristone is usually taken with misoprostol as part of a two-step regimen. But misoprostol-only methods have been used around the world for years and are widely considered safe and effective. Yet studies show that misoprostol-only methods are less effective than the two-step regimen.
Here’s what’s happening in the country following Friday’s legal news:
While Alabama imposed a total abortion ban that includes medical abortion,
Kelsea McLain, associate director of the Yellowhammer Abortion Fund, said their job is to help people learn how to safely self-manage abortions using medication, access medication through clinics or by mail and to understand the legal risks they take when they do so. .
Pending further clarity, McLain said that work remains largely unchanged. But if they lose access to mifepristone, the results will be devastating, she said.
“From Alabama’s perspective, if we lose mifepristone, then we’ve lost almost everything,” she said.
Cobalt Abortion Fund in Colorado said the Texas decision “puts anyone who needs an abortion at risk.” In a report, the organization said it has already seen a flood of out-of-state patients seeking abortion care.
“Access to abortion care shouldn’t depend on politics, and certainly not on a single judge sitting on a party-line vote in Amarillo, Texas,” the organization said.
Earlier this week, the Florida Senate passed a bill banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The measure would need to be approved by the House and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis before becoming law.
With a six-week ban likely on the horizon, Tampa Bay Abortion Fund board member McKenna Kelley said losing access to mifepristone “would be particularly devastating.”
“With this six-week ban likely to pass the House and go into effect and with the potential to no longer have access to mifepristone, I find it hard to understand what this would mean for us,” he said. she stated. “That means someone would effectively have four weeks from their missed period to find out they’re pregnant, make an appointment, get that appointment, go to their appointment, go to their second appointment abortion, which should be procedural.”
“I can only imagine that would essentially eliminate what little access we have in Florida,” she added.
Maine, New England
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will continue to offer medical abortion to patients as the appeals process moves forward, interim CEO Nicole Clegg said.
“This decision is outrageous and should make it clear to everyone that those opposed to abortion will not stop until abortion is banned everywhere, including here in Maine,” she said. declared. “Private medical decisions should be made by patients and their providers, not politicians and judges.”
Lynn McCann-Yeh, co-director of the Baltimore Abortion Fund, called the lawsuit “a model used by the anti-abortion movement since the overturning of Roe v. Wade to confuse what the Human Rights Act says.” abortion”.
“Chaos, confusion and misinformation are not just a byproduct of this situation,” she said. “It was intentional. The confusion and chaos creates another barrier for people trying to access abortion.”
McCann-Yeh said she is concerned about how losing access to mifepristone might affect Maryland, which has one of the strongest legal protections for abortion access in the world. scale and is a “critical access point on the east coast”. As out-of-state patients travel to states like Maryland for treatment, she said this has already led to longer wait times for abortions. It will only get worse as Texas’ decision threatens to limit care options by removing mifepristone, McCann-Yeh said.
Michigan, which voted last year to enshrine abortion rights in its state constitution, has already seen a large influx of patients from neighboring states after Roe v. Wade, said Michele Heisler, medical director of Physicians for Human Rights and professor of internal medicine and public health at the University of Michigan.
If procedural abortions become the only option without access to mifepristone, it will only get worse, she said.
“Our healthcare system is already overwhelmed with patients,” she said.
“It will just increase the burden on providers and add stress to patients who may already be in very vulnerable situations,” she added. “…These types of efforts to limit medical care cause severe psychological damage and trauma.”
Dr. Gopika Krishna, an OB/GYN in New York and a member of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said his team is already discussing how to talk to patients about the confusing legal status of mifepristone while considering misoprostol-only or more appointments for in-clinical, procedural abortions if mifepristone is finally taken off the market. For now, it will continue to offer mifepristone, she said.
Krishna said she was grateful to work in a state with strong protections for abortion access, but frustrated that “even in places where patients thought their abortion rights were protected, a decision like this one creates this confusing environment”.
“This level of confusion has no place in health care,” she said. “It’s my job to use medical evidence to provide the safest and most effective options for my patients. The fact that only one judge in Texas can limit my ability to do so is extremely frustrating and disappointing.”
In Texas, where U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issued the ruling to revoke FDA approval for mifepristone, abortion rights groups have denounced the ruling, saying it could have consequences. serious consequences for people’s ability to access abortion and miscarriage care.
“Mifepristone, a drug approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago and safer than Tylenol, may not be available to those who need it within a week,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and director executive of UltraViolet, a group that protested the lawsuit ahead of a hearing last month. “This decision is unacceptable, dangerous and unprecedented.”
A protest was planned for Saturday in Austin, Texas, and the Women’s March also said it was planning nationwide protests.
Texas’ high maternal mortality rates and existing abortion bans have already “created an extremely dangerous environment for pregnant women” in the state, said Marsha Jones, executive director of the Afiya Center, a justice organization Texas-based reproductive.
“Access to mifepristone from neighboring states and abroad has been a lifeline for pregnant Texans seeking an abortion or those at high risk for complications,” she said. “We must continue to tell Texas lawmakers that we want to make our own private medical decisions, instead of leaving them in the hands of judges.”
Abortion rights group Pro-Choice Washington blasted the Texas decision as “a gross distortion of the legal and public health system” that “creates even more fear and confusion.”
Meanwhile, Washington State also purchased a three-year supply of 30,000 doses of the generic version of mifepristone in anticipation of limits on its availability.
As her team prepares to open Wyoming’s only full-service clinic to offer surgical and medical abortions, Julie Burkhart, president and founder of Wellspring Health Access, said Kacsmaryk’s decision “puts this form of care in jeopardy.” the most basic for millions of people”.
PREVIOUSLY:Abortion clinics regroup, rebuild after violent attacks: “There is still work to do”
She said limiting access to mifepristone would only exacerbate existing abortion deserts in the Midwest, Mountain West and the South, where she plans to open the clinic in Casper, Wyoming.
“That’s why, at Wellspring Health Access, we are committed to this fight – because everyone deserves access to safe abortion care, regardless of circumstance or geography,” he said. she stated.
Contact Christine Fernando at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.