As part of a decades-long strategy to control people's bodies and medical decisions, anti-abortion activists are suing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take mifepristone off the market — reversing its approval of the medicine 22 years ago. Mifepristone is one of two medicines commonly used to end an early pregnancy.
As part of its cruel ploy to end abortion rights and access, this group has targeted a specific court — an Amarillo, Texas, federal court — to try to get its way.
Here’s what you need to know.
This Is Not About Safety
The latest attack on sexual and reproductive health goes after medication abortion — what many call “the abortion pill.” The lawsuit asks a judge to establish a nationwide ban on mifepristone — a safe, effective medication used by more than 5 million Americans to end early pregnancies since its FDA approval. The suit could affect access to abortion as soon as mid-February, even in states where abortion is legal.
The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000. The deadline to appeal the decision is long in the past.
Mifepristone, which is used in more than half of all abortions in the U.S., is very safe. It has a safety record of more than 99% — making it safer than commonplace procedures like removing a person’s tonsils or wisdom teeth, and safer than common medications like Viagra.
These facts make it clear why many legal scholars consider this a ridiculous case. As one professor of law and health policy told a reporter: “This is a lawsuit that should not get anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get anywhere.”
Potentially Far-Reaching Consequences
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, stripping our federally protected right to abortion, it also allowed state politicians to ban abortion. But that's not enough for anti-abortion activists; they want to restrict abortion nationwide. They're using the federal courts — which anti-abortion rights politicians have reshaped by appointing judges with long records hostile to reproductive rights — hoping that judges will take their side, regardless of the facts.
Everyone should get to make decisions about their own lives and futures. That includes the decision to have an abortion and using the method of abortion that best suits them. That’s why mifepristone is used in more than half of abortion procedures nationwide. Patients can have medication abortions in a provider’s office, at home, or in another comfortable place that they choose.
Anti-abortion activists hope to force mifepristone off the market nationwide, which would end access to this medicine — even in California, Illinois, New York, and other states that protect the right to abortion. It could also damage the FDA’s control over approval of medications — and may jeopardize patients’ access to a broad range of other FDA-approved medicines.
‘Leave Abortion to the States’ Was Always a Lie
In the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the court sought to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives” — to politicians, in other words. The truth is that the political anti-abortion agenda, however, has never been about state-by-state control. Activists and out-of-touch politicians seek to ban abortion, limit birth control, and block access to other sexual and reproductive care across the country, ignoring what voters have repeatedly told their elected officials — and ignoring the potential consequences for other health care, including fertility treatments and miscarriages. By going to federal court with this flimsy, politically motivated attack on medication abortion, anti-abortion rights groups have made this goal obvious.
But know this: no matter how this case turns out, we’ll be here fighting for your right to control your body, every step of the way.
Bans Off Our Bodies!
We're counting on our best supporters — YOU! — to step up in this moment. If you're willing to do whatever it takes to defend abortion access, add your name now.
Photo credit: Photo at top courtesy of Flickr user Robin Marty.