Democratic States Challenge Abortion Pill Restrictions

February 24, 2023

Attorneys representing 12 Democratic-led states filed suit on Thursday against the Food and Drug Administration over restrictions imposed on distributing the abortion pill mifepristone.

Washington state and Oregon led the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Yakima. 

Mifepristone, in combination with the drug misoprostol, is approved by the FDA for medication abortion in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortions in the U.S.

Earlier this month, the state of Texas filed suit challenging guidance from the Biden Administration asserting pharmacies may not legally turn away prescriptions for medication abortion, after the FDA in January said it would allow retail drugstores like CVS and Walgreens to offer customers the prescription abortion pills.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) back in July had sent guidance to more than 60,000 pharmacies nationwide stating that under federal civil rights law, pregnancy discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, which is illegal.

Texas asserts that the policy violates the Constitution and federal law by forcing pharmacies to carry abortion drugs in states—like Texas—where abortion is banned or severely restricted. Texas’ Attorney General was among 20 from Republican-led states who warned executives at CVS and Walgreens this month against using the mail to dispense abortion pills in their states.

On Friday, several anti-abortion groups filed suit in Amarillo, Texas against the FDA, asking the court to overturn its approval of mifepristone, prompting Vice President Harris to defend medication abortion. She called the attacks against abortion pills “partisan” and “political,” and an attack on fundamental rights in the U.S.

Thursday’s Democratic-led lawsuit challenges restrictions on medication abortion, such as the requirement that doctors who prescribe it, and pharmacies that dispense it, must obtain special certification—despite July’s guidance to pharmacies from HHS.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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