Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Planned Parenthood leaders said Friday that Minnesotans can still access mifepristone, a drug used in medical abortions, while court rulings in the states of Texas and Washington jeopardize the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Things are changing rapidly,” Ellison said. “No one can honestly say they know exactly what’s going to happen, but we are committed to making sure people have the right to make their own reproductive decisions and to use safe medications like mifepristone.”
US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas, issued a court ruling on April 7 that suspended FDA approval of mifepristone, that has been on the market since 2000. That same day, US District Judge Thomas O. Rice, in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, issued a ruling ordering authorities of the US not to make any changes that would restrict access to mifepristone. The Justice Department appealed Kacsmaryk’s ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled Wednesday that the drug can remain on the market for now, with some restrictions.
“If you have a medical abortion appointment booked or know someone with a medical abortion appointment, I want to assure you that Planned Parenthood is committed to providing abortion care to anyone who walks through our doors in states where abortion is still legal. ”. said Dr. Sarah Traxler, medical director of Planned Parenthood North Central States, whose clinics in Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska offer abortion services.
However, the circuit court’s decision limits the use of mifepristone to abortions that occur at or before seven weeks of pregnancy and prohibits mailing the drug. Ellison called this decision “ridiculous.”
“I think it shouldn’t have any restrictions,” Ellison said. “I think mifepristone has been used for more than two decades, has been used by 5 million people, and has a good safety record, comparable to so many things you can buy without a prescription today.”
“Anti-abortion activists have used the courts to create confusion in the health care system, directly harming patients,” added Ruth Richardson, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “This is a cruel tactic and will serve to harm already marginalized communities.”
Mifepristone is used as the first drug in a two-step series with misoprostol to induce an abortion. This is the standard of care for this procedure, Traxler said. A misoprostol-only regimen can be used for abortions, she added, but the dual use of mifepristone and misoprostol has a better success rate and fewer side effects.
“We’re going to use it if we’re allowed to,” Traxler said. “If we are not allowed to use mifepristone because it is withdrawn from the market, then we will have to transition to a misoprostol-only regimen. … Due to (Ellison’s) efforts, we will not be forced to transition to an alternative regimen for medical abortion.”
With the future uncertain for mifepristone, Traxler said PPNCS is interested in stockpiling both mifepristone and misoprostol, a move states including California, Washington, New York and Massachusetts have made.
“It will look a little different depending on where we provide care,” Traxler said. “And I also think that all of us in the community are being very aware of how we store it and possible hoarding by certain vendors. We want to make sure that there is actually access to those drugs across the country.”
Ellison said he hopes the US Supreme Court will take up the mifepristone issue and decide in favor of keeping the drug on the market.
“This Texas judge has no legal basis to remove mifepristone from the market,” Ellison said. “It would be a usurpation of (the) FDA. What about all the other drugs that the FDA has approved over the years? I think this creates so much chaos that even they (the Supreme Court) are going to have to say no.”