Update, August 16: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to significantly limit access to mifepristone. However, the status quo remains in place until the Supreme Court weighs in.
As we enter year two of a post-Roe v. Wade world, it would be easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of attacks anti-abortion activists have launched since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned abortion rights. From abortion bans, to clinic harassment, to the criminalization of pregnant people and medical providers, it can be hard to keep track of all the ways in which reproductive freedom is under attack.
Particularly now, as we await the outcome of a lawsuit brought by abortion opponents to target mifepristone, one of two drugs used in a medication abortion, anti-abortion activists are using junk science to target medication abortion in a backdoor attempt to circumvent democracy and advance an aggressive nationwide abortion ban.
Do not be fooled by the big “pro-life” propaganda: This medication has been FDA-approved for over 20 years and is proven to be safer than common medicines like Tylenol.
As we defend ourselves against anti-abortion attacks, we need to stay focused on the future we need: a future where everyone is free to make their own abortion decisions—including how and where they access care. It means ensuring that medication abortion is available and accessible for everyone who wants or needs it.
The facts are simple: Abortion pills were safe and effective when the FDA originally approved them in 2000—and they still are now. In fact, in 2016, the FDA expanded abortion pill approval from seven to ten weeks’ gestation. During the pandemic, access improved again when the FDA allowed for the medication’s distribution via telemedicine. At the beginning of this year, it allowed brick-and-mortar pharmacies to stock and dispense the mifepristone.
It bears repeating: Abortion pills have been proven time and again to be safe, effective, and awesome.
In short, the FDA has begun to catch up to international best practices and expand access to this essential medicine in line with medical evidence. These advances enabled millions of people seeking an abortion to access care in a way that best met their needs, often in the privacy of their own home, on their own timeline, and with support from friends and family.
But this progress is being met with hostile pushback from anti-abortion activists who are now using the legal system to bypass voters, health professionals, and FDA experts to eliminate all forms of abortion care. Leveraging anti-abortion justices and Republican state attorneys general, abortion opponents are in court right now using junk science and fearmongering to threaten pharmacies and sue the FDA in an effort to overturn the approval of mifepristone. A stay from the Supreme Court is keeping the pill available while the case moves through the appeals process, but new arguments are being heard by the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
What’s worse, attacks on abortion pills are part of a broader campaign to sow confusion and chaos around medication abortion. Anti-abortion activists are spreading lies and disinformation about its safety and effectiveness to induce fear and doubt about one of the most commonly used medications in the United States—not only to advance their abortion bans, but also to scare people who might need abortion care and intimidate their medical providers.
We’re clearing up this disinformation with the facts: Not only has mifepristone been approved since 2000 and is safer than many commonly used medications—including Tylenol—it has success rates for ending a pregnancy between 95 percent to 97 percent and complication rates less than one-third of 1 percent.
We need to expand access to mifepristone, not further restrict this essential medication. Whether we prefer an abortion pill in-clinic, at the pharmacy, or in the comfort of our own home, abortion pills belong everywhere. Millions of people have had safe and effective medication abortions for over two decades. The FDA has stepped up and local pharmacies are ready to expand access so everyone can get the care that meets their needs.
Ultimately, we must be vocal about our unconditional support for abortion care, whether that’s in a clinical setting or with abortion pills at home. We need to reject the disinformation flooding our newsfeeds and courts courtesy of “pro-life” propaganda. Restrictions on abortion methods only help those who want to ban abortion entirely.
We all deserve the freedom to make our own medical decisions, including when or whether to have children. If we choose to seek abortion care, then we also deserve the freedom to decide what kind of care best suits our needs.
Let’s protect abortion pills and expand access to local pharmacies—so everyone can get the care they need, close to home, safe, and without stigma.