A federal judge in Texas has extended the deadline in a lawsuit that seeks to ban the abortion pill nationwide.
“It is going to have really significant repercussions and will likely put medication abortion out of reach for many patients,” said Kristina Tocce, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Mifepristone was approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago. It is used in combination with another drug to terminate pregnancies at up to 10 weeks.
A possible ban is concerning for providers because the drug is used in 50% of abortions.
“We anticipate patients will have longer waiting times, agencies will have to put different protocols in place, educate staff, make all of the changes that are essential whenever you're altering a medication regimen or protocol,” Tocce said.
The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine — a coalition of physicians who oppose abortion — against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It claims mifepristone is dangerous and that the FDA's approval process was flawed.
The FDA called the lawsuit “extraordinary and unprecedented.”
Providers and advocates say the claims in the lawsuit are baseless.
“Mifepristone has the safety record of over 99%. It is actually safer than Tylenol,” said Aurea Bolaños Perea with the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights.
Advocates say if the abortion pill is banned, more people from out of state will be coming to Colorado for care.
“24.5 million women of reproductive age are living in states with abortion bans. And if the FDA approval of Mifepristone is revoked, 64.5 million women of reproductive age in the US would lose access to medication abortion care,” Perea said. “Our clinics here in Colorado have seen triple digit increase of patients. There is over a two to three-week wait time for folks to be seen here in our state.”
Planned Parenthood is already preparing to offer other drugs if mifepristone is banned.
The judge's decision in this case will have far reaching impacts because the drug isn’t just used for abortions.
“It is the standard of care, the most effective way to manage miscarriage medically,” Tocce said.
The judge's decision could also set a legal precedent, narrowing the FDA’s authority to approve drugs, and could open the door for challenges to other medications on the market.
The deadline in this lawsuit was extended to Feb. 24.