As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the fate of Roe v. Wade, advocates on both sides of the fight are already positioning themselves for the next battle, over medication abortions or so-called abortion pills.
The pills for a medication abortion, mifepristone and misoprostol, are FDA-approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The FDA lifted long-standing restrictions in December and paved the way for doctors to prescribe them online and mail them to patients.
Republican states, meanwhile, are moving to increasingly limit access to the pills, setting up a new round of legal battles over who’ll have the final say over the distribution of the drugs.
“That’s where the entire conflict is going to turn,” Mary Ziegler, a law professor at Florida State University specializing in reproductive health, tells Axios.
Since those drugs can only be used before 10 weeks of pregnancy, the right to surgical abortions will continue to loom large, Ziegler says.
Yes, but: “The kind of low visibility and flexibility of medication abortion is going to be really, really consequential” if the high court strikes down or guts Roe, she adds.
Medication abortion accounted for 54% of all U.S. abortions in 2020, up from 39% in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
One of the cases that may be key in future arguments over limiting access to the pills involves a lawsuit over a painkiller. In 2014, Massachusetts instituted an emergency ban on the opioid Zohydro, saying the drug was dangerous and addictive.
But a federal judge struck down the ban, saying a state couldn’t take a drug off the market that the FDA had deemed safe, Rachel Rebouché, interim dean of Temple University’s law school, tells Axios.
Experts might argue that means states don’t have the authority to ban FDA-approved drugs, including abortion drugs. Some might even go so far as to argue that the FDA’s policies would preempt any attempt by states to ban abortion, Rebouché said.
“That’s a stretch,” she says. “I think a lot of people think that’s a difficult argument to make because states for so long have been able to regulate the practice of medicine and a law that says you can’t perform an abortion seems like regulating the practice of medicine….”
The above comes from an April 4 story on Axios.