WASHINGTON ― Abortion pills are a lifesaving option for millions of people across the country following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health this summer. But a lawsuit by a conservative Christian legal group threatens to dismantle the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of abortion pills. If successful, it would effectively ban medical abortion nationwide, decimating what little access to abortion care remains.
“It would be apocalyptic,” Illinois State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) told HuffPost during a panel discussion Thursday hosted by the State Innovation Exchange, a non-profit organization working on public policy at the state level.
The lawsuit was filed in November by the right-wing legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of groups and doctors who oppose abortion. He claims that the FDA dangerously accelerated the approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medical abortion, in 2000. Mifepristone, along with the second drug used in medical abortion, misoprostol, is a safe drug and effective care that accounts for more than 50% of all abortion and miscarriage care in the United States
Several state lawmakers who are now on the front lines of the abortion rights battle told HuffPost that the idea of mifepristone being pulled from shelves is almost incomprehensible.
“It would literally cripple the way we function as a country,” Florida State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby (D) said. “It would amount to a violation of human rights. I get emotional even thinking about it.
A decision from the Texas federal district court is expected soon — likely within the next few weeks. Although legal experts say lawsuit arguments are weak, Alliance Defending Freedom intentionally filed in Amarillo, Texas, because the lawsuits filed there have a 100% chance of attracting Justice Matthew Kacsmaryk, a far-right candidate nominated by Trump, according Steve Vladeck, law professor at the University of Texas.
Years of research have shown that medical abortion is extremely safe and effective. When used together, mifepristone and misoprostol are more than 95% effective and safer than Tylenol. The FDA currently approves its use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, and the The World Health Organization says mifepristone can be used safely for up to 12 weeks.
Mifepristone is a “safe, effective, and important component in the treatment and management of early miscarriage…and induced abortion,” the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote in a statement. letter to the FDA in June.
“It would literally cripple the way we operate as a country.”
— Florida State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby (D)
But the lawsuit argues that the FDA wrongly approved mifepristone through a fast-track process intended for drugs for life-threatening conditions — a category the lawsuit says pregnancy does not fall under.
The FDA “has never studied the safety of drugs”, which cause “significant injury and harm to pregnant women and girls”, the court asserts.
The suit names the FDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services as defendants and was filed on behalf of four legal groups that oppose abortion rights, as well as a handful of anti-abortion doctors. Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys represent the plaintiffs in this case, was the lead organization behind the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi that led to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reversing federal abortion protections.
If the lawsuit succeeds, it will be the final nail in the coffin for abortion rights in much of the United States. Without access to abortion pills, the only legal options left would be in-person procedural abortions at the few remaining clinics in states that allow it. Barriers to care would continue to increase, as procedural or surgical abortions are often more expensive and wait times would skyrocket.
Minnesota State Senator-elect Erin Maye Quade (D) said lawmakers and pro-choice organizers would be forced to stockpile abortion pills, organize patient caravans across borders and create an “Underground Railroad” support network.
“Let’s talk about the people who will die because they can’t really deal with their miscarriage, in addition to the people who will die because they were forced to remain pregnant,” said Maye Quade. The legislator made the headlines earlier this year for delivering his speech to the convention during labor.
“Think of the impact on medical professionals who literally have to watch their patients die. Talk about PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] on a large scale,” said Maye Quade.
As with Roe’s fall, people with wanted and unwanted pregnancies will be impacted. Up to 20% of known pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage – and care for a miscarriage is the same as for an abortion.
Rayner-Goolsby, one of Florida’s few stay-at-home Democrats, is prepares to fight against his anti-abortion colleagues seeking to restrict proceedings beyond the state’s 15-week ban. His current battle seems unwinnable, but an effective ban on mifepristone? Floridians would never recover, Rayner-Goolsby said.
“Where we are in Florida is not viable now,” she said. “I represent a majority-minority constituency. If this were to happen in the state of Florida, I can’t even, I don’t even have words to express what would happen. There would be a collapse of our health care system, of our foster care system, of higher education, of child care, of the social safety net, of employment.
Misoprostol, the medication used with mifepristone for medical abortion, can also be used alone to successfully terminate a pregnancy and is approved by the World Health Organization for abortion care. The FDA has not approved the misoprostol-only method for abortion care in the United States. But the method is often used in other countries, or where people choose or are forced to self-manage their home abortions.
In addition to the terrible blow a decision like this could have on access, Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director of URGE: United for Reproductive and Gender Equityis concerned about the precedent this would set.
“We are talking about a drug that has been used safely and effectively for decades. It’s easier to use than birth control pills and it’s safer than Tylenol,” she said. “It sets a precedent that the FDA would not be interested in the science or the reality of this drug, but would actually be involved in politics, which is what we saw with plan B years ago. It’s bad for the community, bad for the agency, and bad precedent.
The Huffington Gt