Anti-abortion group that helped overturn Roe v Wade sues FDA to revoke approval of abortion drug

A right-wing group that has supported anti-abortion lawsuits across the United States, including the landmark Supreme Court case that overturned Roe vs. Wadeis suing the Food and Drug Administration to overturn its approval of a commonly used abortion drug.

Mifepristone is used for medical abortion, a procedure that accounts for the majority of abortions in the United States. It is also commonly used to treat miscarriages. Mifepristone and misoprostol are the only drugs recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for the treatment of early pregnancy loss.

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in Amarillo, Texas on November 18 against the FDA and the US Health and Human Services Department on behalf of four anti-abortion groups and four doctors.

The suit claims the FDA does not have the authority to approve the drug, which the groups claim is “dangerous.”

Mifepristone was approved for use by the FDA in most cases up to 10 weeks of pregnancy in 2000. Several studies have determined that they are overwhelmingly safe and effective, used in about 54 percent of all abortions. The vast majority of abortions occur within the first nine weeks. In 2019, almost 93 percent of all abortions were performed before the 13th week.

Last year, the FDA permanently lifted the in-person medication abortion requirement, giving patients access to the drugs through telehealth appointments and online pharmacies so patients can take the medication at home.

But within the last year, anti-abortion state lawmakers filed more than 100 bills to limit the availability and distribution or abortion drugs, or attempt to ban them altogether.

In a statement to The independent, Alliance for Defending Freedom senior counsel Julie Marie Blake argued that FDA-approved abortion drugs pose “serious and life-threatening complications” to patients, despite evidence from major medical groups that suggests otherwise. Medical abortions that require hospitalization for any reason typically occur in less than half of 1 percent of patients.

The conservative Christian legal advocacy group claims the FDA has “never had the authority” to approve the drug, which senior counsel Erik Baptist argues has “always stood on shaky legal and moral ground.”

“On behalf of the national health organizations and physicians we represent, we are asking the court to hold the FDA accountable for its reckless, illegal conduct,” he said in a statement.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is among powerful anti-abortion groups that have worked with state lawmakers to advance anti-abortion laws in an effort to draw legal challenges they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

At an anti-abortion Evangelicals For Life conference in Washington DC in 2018, the group and other campaigns touted a new legal strategy in state law: promoting unconstitutional anti-abortion laws that would attract lawsuits from abortion-rights groups that claim they defy Roe vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey protections.

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, drafted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, forces abortion rights groups into a legal battle that would eventually land at the Supreme Court as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

In June, with a new conservative supermajority on the court — the product of a parallel campaign by anti-abortion groups to seat judicial appointments that could overturn Roe — the nation’s Supreme Court revoked a constitutional right to abortion.

President Joe Biden’s administration and abortion rights advocates have condemned the latest case.

“For decades, women in this country have had access to FDA-approved medication abortion as a safe and effective option,” according to a statement from HHS. “Denying women access to every essential care they need is downright dangerous and extreme.”

In the wake of Dobbs decision, the administration directed federal agencies to “identify” ways to protect access to mifepristone.

Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Mazie Hirono, Kirsten Gillibrand, Angus King and Chris Van Hollen have called on the FDA to remove barriers to abortion drugs, which are currently regulated under a “medically unnecessary personal dispensing requirement.”

“As states implement new restrictions, it is more important than ever that you take immediate steps to expand access to medication abortion,” they wrote in a Nov. 18 letter to Commissioner Robert Cardiff.

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith also introduced the Medicine Abortion Access Protection Act, which would codify FDA guidelines to ensure patients can access drugs at telehealth appointments and mail-order pharmacies.

Mutual aid organizations and international aid groups have also mobilized to connect patients with abortion drugs through the mail in an effort to circumvent state laws criminalizing US providers.

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