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SCOTUS pauses abortion pill restrictions

But the effort to hold the FDA accountable continues in the courts

Protesters and passersby mill about the Supreme Court building on April 14. Associated Press/Photo J. Scott Applewhite

SCOTUS pauses abortion pill restrictions
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Last Friday evening, the Supreme Court stayed a lower court decision, which will mean that access to chemical abortion will continue, for now, as the case returns to lower courts for consideration. The Court’s action came in regard to the case known as Americans for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Yet the fight to protect women and girls from dangerous chemical abortion drugs is far from over and will continue in the lower courts.

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, it was the beginning of a whole new chapter for pro-life citizens. The promise of the Dobbs decision is that states may finally protect both women’s health and unborn life. The instant case is the next step in the fight to truly protect the vulnerable among us—unborn babies, women, and girls—from a predatory abortion industry.

Two lower courts have ruled that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) must restore critical safeguards it has removed from these dangerous drugs. On Friday, however, the Court decided to pause those lower-court decisions while the lawsuit proceeds. This is a common practice. As Justice Alito’s dissent made clear, the Court did not rule on the merits of the case, but simply decided to maintain the status quo while the case moves forward in the lower courts.

That does not mean that the blistering pace of the lawsuit will necessarily let up, for the case is moving quickly and will continue to do so. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral argument in the case for May 17. The expedited process is a good thing; the FDA needs to be held accountable for endangering the health of American women and girls through its reckless, unauthorized approval of these harmful drugs and its continual stripping away of every meaningful safeguard.

The only way the FDA could approve chemical abortion was to mislabel pregnancy an “illness.”

This case called upon the courts to hold the FDA accountable for its unauthorized approval of dangerous chemical abortion drugs. In 2000, the FDA buckled under political pressure from the outgoing Clinton administration and illegally approved a harmful drug without consulting relevant studies or imposing appropriate safeguards. In fact, the only way the FDA could approve chemical abortion was to mislabel pregnancy an “illness.”

Further, chemical abortion drugs can be dangerous. They always take the life of an innocent child and many women who take them experience serious complications, including hemorrhage requiring blood transfusions, failed or incomplete abortions requiring surgery, sepsis, damage to the uterus that renders future successful pregnancies impossible, and even death. According to the drug manufacturer’s own numbers, between two and seven percent of chemical abortions fail, meaning thousands of women have ended up requiring surgery. And thousands more suffer severe bleeding, or worse.

Yet the FDA has bent over backwards to eliminate the most basic of safeguards. In 2016, the FDA reduced the number of required office visits from three to one and no longer required that a doctor prescribe the drugs. It also changed the gestational limit from seven weeks to ten weeks and stopped requiring prescribers to report non-deadly adverse effects. In 2021, the FDA then relied upon the absence of adverse events to allow for mail-order abortions. The FDA stopped requiring any in-person visits at all and allowed prescribers to send these dangerous drugs through the mail without ever meeting the women who would be taking them.

These self-managed abortions are especially dangerous for women and girls. Chemical abortion drugs have many medical contraindications that require an in-person doctor’s visit to determine, such as high blood pressure, certain blood types, ectopic pregnancies, and gestational age. In cases of ectopic pregnancy, mail-order abortion drugs can kill. Yet the FDA eliminated in-person visits, the only way to detect an ectopic pregnancy and accurately assess gestational age.

All this is why two federal courts have ruled that the FDA overstepped its authority in removing crucial safeguards. While the Supreme Court’s latest order has paused these rulings, the case is far from over. Now, it is time for us all to pray fervently that God continues to bless this effort to protect the health and safety of American women and girls, to preserve the lives of innocent babies, and to restore our nation to a true culture of life.

The author works for Alliance Defending Freedom and is one of the attorneys representing doctors and medical associations in the case.

Erin Hawley

Erin Hawley is a wife, mom of three, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, and a law professor at Regent University School of Law.

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