By Aneri Upadhyay
Abortion access in the United States has been a battle for decades. The use of abortion by an individual instead of based on government regulations was decided in 1973. This was overturned in 2022, bringing abortion into a state-delegated issue once more. Recently, however, another drug that can be used to grant abortions has been on the rise in the United States.
Mifepristone is a pill that can terminate an early pregnancy. According to PBS, it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. The FDA has changed the parameters for mifepristone use throughout the years, from how many weeks in the pregnancy the drug can be used to the dosage requirements.
A lawsuit against mifepristone was filed in Amarillo, Texas last year. It was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that advocates for their interpretation of Christian beliefs.
The district court judge in Amarillo, Matthew Kacsmaryk, ruled against the FDA’s approval of the drug. However, Joe Biden requested for the United States Court of Appeals to halt this ruling.
The Supreme Court decided to ultimately block lower courts from limiting access to the abortion pill, according to NPR. The Court of Appeals scheduled a meeting for May 17 to further settle the issue.
The Supreme Court agreed that there should be access until the Court of Appeals meets. What does this mean? At least for now, the pill will be available in states where abortion is legal.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the decision, as reported by NPR.
“As narrowed by the Court of Appeals, the stay that would apply if we failed to broaden it would not remove mifepristone from the market,” Alito stated. “It would simply restore the circumstances that existed (and that the Government defended) from 2000 to 2016 under three Presidential administrations.”
In a statement, Biden spoke of his support for the availability of the pill.
“I continue to stand by FDA's evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my Administration will continue to defend FDA's independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs,” Biden said.
As reported by NPR, there is another lawsuit concerning GenBioPro and the FDA. GenBioPro is a drug manufacturer that produces mifepristone tablets. The company is requesting that the pill stay accessible and on the market for the time being. They want a federal court to force the FDA to maintain access.
There is another option if mifepristone becomes inaccessible. According to Reuters, misoprostol has been previously approved by the FDA but not by itself. Instead, it is recommended to be taken with mifepristone. It was originally approved to help with gastric ulcers but can be used for abortions.
A spokesperson for one of the companies that makes misoprostol, Baudette, spoke on the demand for the drug with everything happening with abortion laws.
“We have seen an increase in demand since the ruling earlier this month,” they said. “We have ramped up our manufacturing and are currently prepared to meet the increased demand we are seeing.”
Planned Parenthood clinics in New York have reportedly ordered enough misoprostol to last a year.
Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, a public health professor at the University of California, San Francisco, commented on the safety of using the drug by itself.
“If providers are forced to stop providing mifepristone, misoprostol alone is also safe and effective,” Upadhyay said.
As reported by WHYY, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is working on protecting abortion rights in New Jersey. He hopes that the federal court’s ruling will not affect the state’s laws too heavily.
“We are aggressively pushing back on the decision that was handed down in Texas,” he said.