- The American Medical Association is urging a Texas judge to reject an effort to ban mifepristone.
- Abortion opponents claim the FDA-approved drug is dangerous.
- But the AMA says opponents are distorting science, noting the pill’s safety “has been evident for decades.”
Anti-abortion activists who are urging a conservative Texas judge to ban an FDA-approved abortion pill over purported health concerns are misrepresenting the science, lawyers for the American Medical Association argued this week.
The attorneys for the AMA warned that any decision that restricts access to the abortion pill mifepristone “will impose a severe, almost unimaginable cost on pregnant people throughout the United States.”
The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000 and has argued any effort by a court to restrict access to it would be “extraordinary and unprecedented.” It is currently used as part of a two-drug method for non-surgical, medication abortions in states that have not prohibited options for terminating a pregnancy since the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
But last year a group of anti-abortion medical workers, dubbed the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, filed a lawsuit urging a federal judge in Texas — appointed by former President Donald Trump and sought out by conservative plaintiffs for his perceived willingness to aid right-wing causes — to remove mifepristone from the market, everywhere, citing a range of purported health concerns.
The AMA says those stated concerns are not based on facts
In a brief filed this week, attorneys for the group and a host of other mainstream medical organizations — including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as the American Academy of Family Physicians — accused anti-abortion activists of using false claims to pursue a policy goal that would harm not just those seeking an abortion but “the healthcare system as a whole.”
“Medication abortion including mifepristone is safe and effective. This is not an opinion — it is a fact based on hundreds of medical studies and vast amounts of data amassed over the course of two decades,” the brief states. “Reversing the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, in whole or in any part, would cause profound and irreparable harm to patients across the country.”
Noting that mifepristone is used not just for abortions but to treat those who have suffered a miscarriage, lawyers for the medical organizations note that the drug “has a safety profile comparable to ibuprofen,” with a risk of death “near zero.” Far more dangerous, the lawyers note, is Viagra, which is associated with 4.9 deaths for every 100,000 prescriptions; childbirth is roughly 14 times more likely to result in death for a pregnant person.
In their lawsuit, anti-abortion activists cited fears that the drug, which temporary blocks progesterone receptors in the uterus, could have lasting impacts on teenage girls. They also cited emotional distress reported after an abortion.
But pregnant teenagers, the medical groups note, have levels of progesterone far greater than their non-pregnant peers. “There is no reason to think, nor is there evidence to show, that preventing the absorption of progesterone for a brief window would have any effects on adolescent development,” the brief states. In addition, research suggests that those who obtain an abortion sufferer fewer adverse mental health effects than those who are denied access to one, with one study showing that 95% of those who terminate a pregnancy believe it was the “right decision.”
Last week, a group of Democratic attorneys general submitted their own brief arguing that any ban on mifepristone would lead to an “unprecedented spike” in maternal mortality. Republican attorneys general also submitted a brief arguing that the availability of the drug infringes on the right of states to regulate abortion.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presides over the US district court for the Northern District of Texas, has given parties until February 24 to submit arguments. A ruling is expected soon after.
Have a news tip? Email this reporter: [email protected]