Following Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision to strike down Americans’ constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years, Attorney General Merrick Garland has sought to provide some reassurance to women that states will not be able to ban the prescription drug sometimes used for abortions.
Following the decision, the New England Journal of Medicine also published an op-ed strongly condemning the reversal, saying it “did not serve American families badly, putting their health, safety, finances, and future at risk.”
Doctors and doctors’ groups around the world have also sounded the alarm over the dramatic decision, even though it was expected months earlier. Judges voted 6-3 to overturn Roe vs. Wadewith three of the justices appointed under President Donald Trump joining the majority.
Chief Justice John Roberts also voted with the majority, but said he would have taken “a more measured course” than outright repeal.
In their dissenting opinion, the three liberal justices wrote, “Today’s decision robs women of their agency on what even the majority recognizes to be a contested and contestable moral issue. It obliges her to carry out the will of the State, whatever the circumstances and whatever damage it will cause to her and her family.
Doctors expressed similar sentiments in public statements.
“Experience around the world has shown that restricting access to legal abortion care does not dramatically reduce the number of procedures, but it does dramatically reduce the number of sure procedures, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality,” the NEJM said in its editorial.
Sterling Ransone, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, also said he was “disappointed and discouraged” by the decision to roll back those longstanding protections.
“Allowing each state to pass its own laws regarding access to reproductive health care, including abortion services and contraception, exacerbates inequities in the health system,” Ransone said in a statement. “These laws disproportionately affect patients who belong to underrepresented groups and underserved areas, already putting them at increased risk of maternal death.”
Nearly half of the 50 states could potentially pass bills banning abortions, which would follow years of increased restrictions around abortions in the South and Midwest.
The FDA, meanwhile, permanently lifted its in-person delivery requirements for abortion pills in December. Abortions with mifepristone account for approximately 40% of all abortions in the United States.
While some may argue that states could impose additional restrictions on the use of mifepristone, lawyers argue that these state-to-state restrictions could be challenged, especially by pharmaceutical companies.
“If a court were to decide that a state could ban certain drugs, the implications for the pharmaceutical industry would be enormous. Go get a [new drug application] with the FDA is not a puny process, is it? It takes hundreds of millions of dollars and sometimes decades of research. Companies bear these costs and this time because they think it will lead to a national license to sell a product. If all of a sudden states can ban products, you can imagine companies are pretty upset,” Greer Donley, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, told Bloomberg recently.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland also clarified in a statement Friday that states would not be able to ban the use of the abortion pill:
And we stand ready to work with other branches of the federal government that seek to use their legitimate powers to protect and preserve access to reproductive care. In particular, the FDA has approved the use of the drug mifepristone. States cannot ban mifepristone due to disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment on its safety and effectiveness.
Massachusetts had previously sought to ban the use of a particular opioid (most recently taken off the market) after gaining FDA approval, but that ban was overturned by a court.
but can they ban it as part of a general ban on abortion, NOT focused on its safety or efficacy? The quote does not seem to indicate that the GA is pronouncing on this more difficult but more important question. https://t.co/OYUUaoKjMH
— Hank Greely (@HankGreelyLSJU) June 24, 2022