Legal Battle Democratic Attorneys General Seek Supreme Court Support for Abortion Pill Access

Legal Battle: Democratic Attorneys General Seek Supreme Court Support for Abortion Pill Access

On March 26, the case pertaining to access to the abortion pill will be heard by the US Supreme Court. (Jim Small / Mirror of Arizona)

In a case that is still pending, twenty-six Democratic attorneys general from Oregon, Washington, and other states pleaded with the US Supreme Court to uphold the country’s present restrictions on the abortion pill.

The Food and Drug Administration originally implemented requirements when it approved the drug, mifepristone, in 2000. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judgment, which would reinstate those limitations, will be taken into consideration by the Supreme Court.

The FDA mandated that doctors visit patients three times and give the medication in person. In order to make the medicine more broadly accessible, the agency loosened its regulations in 2016 and permitted prescriptions for it to be distributed via mail and during telehealth consultations.

This week, the Democratic attorneys general submitted their brief to the court. On March 26, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in this case.

In a statement on Wednesday, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum stated that it would be incorrect to decide to travel back in time to 2016.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision to unnecessarily restrict access to mifepristone ignores decades of scientific evidence and clinical research that shows this drug is both highly safe and effective,” Rosenblum stated. “We are asking the United States Supreme Court to reverse that ruling so as to prevent disruption of this common, safe method of early abortion and miscarriage care and to the health care system generally.”

It has been demonstrated that mifepristone, when combined with misoprostol, is 97% effective. More than half of abortions in Oregon and the United States are performed using it, in part because it makes access to abortion easier, particularly for women living in rural regions with limited finances and distance from physicians.

Oregon, which has among of the least restrictive abortion laws in the nation, would be included in a nationwide ruling by the Supreme Court in support of the Fifth Circuit’s decision.

Medication can be mailed to an address in the state, and there are no waiting periods or gestational limits in place.

Republican-led states like Idaho have implemented abortion bans since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in June 2022, which has increased demand in Oregon.

According to the Oregon Health Authority’s most recent full-year data, the state saw over 8,700 abortions in 2022 compared to 7,100 in 2021.

In their brief, Rosenblum and associates contended that the FDA’s easing of regulations in 2016 was supported by strong scientific data and adhered to an agency directive requiring it to weigh access hurdles against any limitations on a drug.

“These changes have proven particularly valuable in reaching rural and low-income communities where abortion care would otherwise be unavailable or extremely difficult to access,” the brief stated.

The attorneys general contend that restricting access to the abortion pill will increase prices, dangers, and delays for patients while also creating uncertainty among pharmacies, clinicians, and distributors and upending the regulatory process for medication approvals.

“Reinstating these obstacles to obtaining medication abortion could result in more unwanted surgical procedures, increase travel and waiting times to obtain care and push abortions to later in pregnancy, driving up both costs and medical risks,” the brief stated.

On March 26, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in this case. Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia are among the attorneys general who join Rosenblum in the brief.