Senate bill would protect medical abortion as Roe Teeters

As a war on abortion drugs looms, a pro-choice lawmaker is working preemptively to protect the drugs ahead of the likely fall of Roe v. Wade this month.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced Thursday the Law on the protection of access to medicines and abortion, which seeks to codify current Food and Drug Administration guidelines for abortion drugs in states that will continue to provide abortion care in a post-Roe world. The bill would ensure people could still order medical abortion pills through telehealth and mail-order pharmacies in those states.

“As we stand on the precipice of this partisan Supreme Court preparing to overturn Roe, one of the things we need to do is protect access to abortion care in states where it will always be legal. “Smith told HuffPost. “With that in mind, I am introducing this bill that would only enact the current FDA rules and guidelines for medical abortion. It is a safe and effective drug.

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) questions Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell during the Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington, DC on March 3, 2022.

Tom Williams via Getty Images

Smith’s bill comes days before a Supreme Court ruling that is expected to dismantle Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that granted federal abortion protections. The case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationfocuses on a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, which will likely move the gestation limit from 24 to 15 weeks, or overturn Roe altogether.

Medical abortion is a combination of two drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – first approved by the FDA in 2000 for the care of miscarriage and abortion before the 10-week point. It is also the most common method of abortion in the country, accounting for approximately 60% of all abortions in the United States When used together, mifepristone and misoprostol are more than 95% effective and safer than Tylenol, but they are highly regulated.

During the pandemic, the FDA has temporarily waived a requirement for in-person distribution to help curb the spread of COVID-19 by limiting face-to-face interactions, which allowed abortion providers to order medical abortion via telehealth. This means that in states like California, New York and Colorado, online pharmacies can virtually prescribe abortion pills to patients and send medications by mail for people to take from the comfort of their homes. The temporary lifting of restrictions was so successful that the FDA permanently waived the in-person dispensing requirement, allowing online pharmacies to continue prescribing abortion pills via telehealth permanently.

But as access to abortion pills grows, anti-choice lawmakers and other abortion opponents are taking notice — and working quietly to restrict access to the drugs. Already, 19 states have banned the prescription of medical abortion by mail or through virtual telehealth visits, and more than 100 measurements have been introduced in red states across the country, specifically attacking access to medical abortion.

“Given the Republican attacks on abortion in general, and then medical abortion in particular, that seems like a very important thing to protect right now,” Smith said, adding that a primary goal is to counter a much of the anti-choice misinformation about drugs. Abortion.

Many Republicans continued to spread the rhetoric that abortion pills are harmful. They use the term ‘chemical abortion’, suggesting the process increases birth defects and growing stigma around what medical experts confirm is a very safe and effective method of abortion.

“In states where abortion will always be legal, there are state legislatures that impose all kinds of restrictions that run counter to the facts and the science,” Smith said. “We also want to be able to broadly counter this misinformation and tell people, ‘This is a common way to get abortion care.'”

The Access to Abortion Drug Protection Act is unlikely to pass the Senate, given that lawmakers recent rejection of the Women’s Health Protection Act which would have codified Roe. The most recent vote on the WHPA came after a leaked Supreme Court decision showed the court was close to overturning Roe; before that, WHPA failed in the Senate by filibuster in February.

Smith was realistic when asked about the bill’s ability to pass the Senate.

“The reality is what it is right now. We don’t have 60 votes in the United States Senate to advance legislation to protect abortion rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said. she stated.

“But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to introduce legislation, talk about the needs and use it as a way to communicate widely about what’s going on in this country. And also to mobilize support and ultimately get these bills passed when we have the votes to pass them.

Norman D. Briggs