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10 months after the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling reversed the constitutional right to an abortion, more anti-abortion litigation threatens the state of reproductive justice in the U.S.

In a much anticipated ruling out of Amarillo, Texas, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in favor of suspending the Food and Drug Association’s approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs used in most standard medical abortions. 

It was initially set to go into effect on Saturday, reports NPR, but The U.S. Justice Department and mifepristone manufacturer Danco Laboratories filed emergency requests to delay it. On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito signed an order putting a five-day pause on the ruling. This postpones its effects until Wednesday, April 19, and requires any responses to be filed by noon this Tuesday. 

“The lower courts’ orders would “create significant chaos for patients, prescribers, and the health care delivery system…. The resulting disruption would deny lawful access to a drug FDA deemed a safe and effective alternative to invasive surgical abortion,” reads the request.

Mifepristone was first approved in 2000, with generic versions approved in 2019. The ruling halts the FDA’s approval of the drug beyond the seventh week of pregnancy and would prevent mifepristone from being mailed or prescribed without an in-person doctor visit.

According to Reuters, Danco said that with these restrictions mifepristone might become unavailable for months, and that the company would potentially be forced to stop operations. 

Medical abortion remains legal in Illinois, but local pro-choice groups and care providers are voicing their opposition to the ruling. 

“Banning mifepristone or restricting its use will not stop medication abortion in this country,” Alicia Hurtado of the Chicago Abortion Fund said at a rally held downtown on Friday. “It will simply make it harder on people who are already battling chaos and confusion amid an already intense and devastating abortion access crisis.” 

In a press release, Planned Parenthood stated it is prepared to continue to serve abortion seekers in the state. 

“Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) continues to offer medication abortion as an option to our patients using a safe and effective mifepristone/misoprostol regimen, which remains legal in Illinois. We continue to monitor this situation closely and will look to the Department of Justice and the FDA for guidance. PPIL is prepared to provide medication abortion with or without mifepristone,” said Jennifer Welch, President and CEO of PPIL.

According to Guttmacher Institute, medication abortion accounted for 53% of all U.S. abortions in 2020, with 98% of them using the mifepristone, misoprostol combination. 

Dr. Debra Stulberg, Professor and Chair of Family Medicine at University of Chicago, says that mifepristone followed by misoprostol is considered the “gold standard” of medical abortion but misoprostol alone can be used alternatively. 

“If you don’t have mifepristone, you can take misoprostol only, you have to take more of it and while it is very safe and it is effective, it – based on the best evidence we have so far – is a bit less effective than taking the two medication regimen,” she explained. 

When Rebellious spoke with Dr. Stulberg before the ruling, she said that she does consider misoprostol alone a reliable option for medication abortion seekers.

“I think that that is something that people should feel comfortable with if they want to use medication, but I also think we should sort of expect that there’s going to be some disruption, there may be some confusion, but we have to keep our eye on the ball,” she said. “The science is very clear on this medication and therefore [if mifepristone was banned], this will end up back available and back in people’s hands when they need it.”

She shared her thoughts on the ongoing battle.

“It is unfortunately a predictable consequence of what the Supreme Court did when they overturned Roe v. Wade because they created this opportunity for anti-abortion forces who have been working for years to try to restrict access to safe, legal abortion and create an opportunity for them to try every trick in the book – and this is a great trick they found,” she said. 

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