The Abortion Pill Order Issued By The United States Supreme Court Spares Safe Havens

Access to an abortion pill was about to become more difficult in California, New York, and a few other states that have positioned themselves as safe havens for people looking to end their pregnancies before the U.S. Supreme Court intervened on Friday.

The order maintains federal regulations on the use of mifepristone, one of the two medicines typically combined in medication abortions. The Supreme Court signaled it will make a decision by Wednesday, indicating the legal saga is not yet done.

The high court’s stance at least delays a decision made last Wednesday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which would have permitted the sale of mifepristone under regulations adopted by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, prior to a series of changes that loosened access.

On Saturday, the 5th Circuit decision, which reversed a current federal court injunction barring mifepristone sales nationally, was scheduled to go into force. It would have prevented people from receiving the medication via mail because it would have needed to be taken in a doctor’s office.

Observing the mifepristone dispute, senior teaching fellow at Duke Law School Jolynn Dellinger observed, “That’s not good for all of these states that are trying to help other people,” prior to the Supreme Court’s decision.

The other abortion drug, misoprostol, which can be used alone to end pregnancies but works best when combined with mifepristone, is unaffected by any of the verdicts.

Reverting to the previous regulations would have had little to no impact on abortion policy for the 13 states that prohibit abortion at all stages of pregnancy and the one that forbids it after heart activity is discovered.

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, pharmaceutical abortion was already restricted in at least 10 other states. For instance, in Georgia, it can only be administered during the first six weeks of pregnancy; in Kansas, a pre-dispensing ultrasound at an office visit is necessary; and in North Carolina, telemedicine prescriptions are not permitted.

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On the other hand, it appears that the 17 Democratic-controlled states would not have been impacted by the move either; last week, a judge ruled with them in their request that mifepristone access not be changed in those states.

That would have left only eight states where going back to the regulations from before 2016 may have had a significant impact: Republican-controlled Alaska and Montana, Democratic-controlled California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, as well as the politically polarized states of New Hampshire and Virginia, have all preserved access to abortion and welcomed out-of-state abortion seekers.

The governor of Maryland revealed on Friday that his state was stockpiling abortion drugs in case of restrictions, joining California, Massachusetts, and New York in doing so. Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey has stated that he is thinking about doing so.

The University of Maryland Medical System and the Democratic governor of Maryland, Wes Moore, have worked to ensure that mifepristone is available.

Moore declared, “Maryland will not tolerate this assault on women’s health care as a member of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance.” This acquisition is another another illustration of the administration’s dedication to keeping Maryland a safe haven for legal access to abortion and high-quality reproductive healthcare.

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