Supreme Court to rule on DIY chemical abortions
The U.S. government appeals a ruling that leaves babies and women unprotected
The Supreme Court could rule soon on whether abortionists can prescribe chemical abortion pills during the coronavirus pandemic without a medical provider watching over a woman as she takes them. The Department of Justice filed an emergency motion in August asking the Supreme Court to reinstate safety regulations for the distribution of mifepristone, the first drug in the abortion pill regimen.
In July, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland ruled women across the nation could access the pills through mail or delivery. A licensed provider must still prescribe the pills, but he or she could assess the mother during a telemedicine appointment. Chuang said U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules requiring mothers to take mifepristone while healthcare workers monitored them in person put the women at risk of contracting COVID-19. But pro-life groups said ignoring the rules would put them at greater risk of life-threatening complications from taking mifepristone too late or during an ectopic pregnancy.
In the Justice Department’s emergency motion, acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall reminded the Supreme Court that the FDA implemented the restrictions to mitigate the serious risks mifepristone poses to patients, including heavy bleeding or an incomplete abortion. The agency reviewed and reaffirmed the safety requirements in 2011, 2013, and 2016. During the 2013 review, the FDA indicated that requiring in-person distribution ensured women receive counseling about complications and take the drug in a timely manner, reducing health risks.
Lawyers for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the organization behind the original lawsuit challenging the FDA rules, filed a response brief on Tuesday citing “unrebutted evidence” that the rules pose insurmountable obstacles to some patients during the pandemic, making the restrictions “unconstitutional.”
Lawyers in the case expect a Supreme Court ruling within the next two weeks.
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