Photo Credit danilo.alvesd on Unsplash
Earlier in 2023, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, other pro-life medical organizations, and individual pro-life physicians filed a federal district court in Dallas, against the FDA concerning their regulations on dispensing mifepristone. This drug is the first of two used in the abortion pill sequence, blocking the pregnancy hormone progesterone so as to kill off the embryo or fetus. Afterwards, the baby and other uterine contents are expelled in a labor induced by misoprostol.
AHM et al., argued that the FDA’s approval for mifepristone in 2000 was based on poor research, and caused various injuries to women throughout the US, among other complaints relating to medical safety and ethics. They also argued that the lift on safety regulations in 2016 (and later 2021), as well as approval for a generic version of mifepristone in 2019, continued to worsen this problem. Research shows that the abortion pill sequence has many risks even when safety regulations are followed, and more so when telemedicine replaces an office visit.
The case was decided recently, with mixed results. The 2000 approval for mifepristone could not be overruled due to statute of limitations, but the FDA was ordered to rescind its more recent approvals for telemedicine, mail-order abortion pills, and dispensations at pharmacies. If this goes into effect, then doctors will once again be required to properly screen women in office for contraindications before prescribing mifepristone. It will also provide a critical layer of protection for women in abusive relationships.
However, the Fifth Circuit’s decision will not go into effect until much later – and is awaiting a SCOTUS decision that may potentially override it. This means that current regulations regarding abortion drugs will remain intact. This is especially true as the case has brought up debate over who gets to regulate medications. As Ian Millhiser explains in his Vox article:
Before the Alliance case was filed, there was broad bipartisan support within the judiciary for the idea that scientific judgments about which medicines are safe to be sold in the United States, as well as judgments regarding how those drugs should be dispensed, should be made by actual scientists in the FDA and not by lawyers in black robes. Indeed, in a 2020 dissent, Justice Samuel Alito chastised a lower court judge who “took it upon himself to overrule the FDA on a question of drug safety.”
Deference to the FDA is uncontroversial when it comes to, say, beta blockers. But what happens when the FDA is itself politicized, or captured by the abortion industry?
Pro-life organizations are treating AHM vs. FDA as a small, but important, win. The American Association of OB-GYNs shared on Instagram that the case was, “a first step towards reprioritizing women’s health over the interests of the abortion industry and its allies within our profession.”
As the case goes on, it is important to inform people about the risks of the abortion pill sequence. They also deserve to know that reversals of mifepristone (before the second pill is taken) are not only possible, but safe.