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Anti-abortion groups look to states and lawsuits to restrict access to abortion pills

FILE – Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women’s Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on March 16, 2022. On Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, the Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule change that allows women seeking abortion pills to get them through the mail, replacing a long-standing requirement that they pick up the medicine in person. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File) Allen G. Breed/AP

Anti-abortion groups look to states and lawsuits to restrict access to abortion pills

Abigail Adcox

January 05, 04:00 AM January 05, 04:00 AM

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Anti-abortion groups are turning their attention to state lawmakers and a federal lawsuit to restrict access to abortion medication after the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow retail pharmacies to dispense an abortion-inducing drug to patients who have a prescription.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America indicated it will be putting pressure on state lawmakers to introduce and pass legislation to restrict access to mifepristone, which is used with misoprostol to end pregnancies, in light of the FDA’s regulatory change.

FDA TO ALLOW RETAIL PHARMACIES TO OFFER ABORTION PILLS

“States have an obligation to protect their citizens by making sure that a woman has access to medical care that she gets properly screened, not just for any medical contraindications but also for domestic violence or trafficking, which can only be done in person,” said Katie Glenn, state policy director for SBA Pro-Life America. “This is the exact wrong direction for the FDA, and states are really gonna have to step up that much more.”

SBA Pro-Life America previously worked with Georgia lawmakers last year to pass legislation that would prohibit mailing abortion medication, though the bill never made it to a vote.

“We see this as a huge concern for every state that will still have legal abortions,” Glenn added. “In those states where they don’t have legal abortions except in those narrow exceptions like for life or health of the mother like a medical emergency, they still need to make sure that they are preventing pills from being mailed in from other states.”

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Abortion opponents are also banking on a federal lawsuit in Texas tipping in their favor. Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group, filed the lawsuit in November on behalf of Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, seeking to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, granted in 2000.

“This case and this litigation is now ripe to go to court, where we can now challenge everything that the FDA has done,” Erik Baptist, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, told Axios.

A ruling in favor of abortion opponents could upend the availability of medication abortions, which accounted for over half of all abortions in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The regulatory change is the latest move by the Biden administration to expand access to the drug as it attempts to protect abortion rights after the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to an abortion.

It will allow pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, that become certified to dispense abortion medication to patients who have received a prescription from a qualified health provider. Previously, abortion medication could only be prescribed and dispensed by clinics, medical offices, hospitals, or under the supervision of a certified health provider.

Planned Parenthood applauded the regulatory change as a “step in the right direction.”

“While we’re still fighting against bans and restrictions on medication abortion at the state level, it’s critical that people in states where abortion is legal have access to care. Today’s changes will help millions of people have more access to the care they need, when they need it,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

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