Democratic governors stockpile abortion pills in response to Texas FDA ruling

shutterstock 1124432339 Gov. Gavin Newsom of California. | Karl_Sonnenberg/Shutterstock

Since a federal judge’s Friday ruling called the legality of the abortion drug mifepristone into question, the governors of New York, Washington, Massachusetts, and California revealed they have begun stockpiling years’ worth of chemical abortion supplies for use in their states.

In the case that last week’s ruling suspending the FDA’s abortion pill approval is upheld by higher courts, these four governors intend to have a surplus of abortion drugs on hand.

“I want to assure Washington women that mifepristone will remain available in the state of Washington,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said on Friday. “The Texas judge’s decision, while unfortunate, will not stop us from making this product available to Washington women who exercise their right of choice … This is an important right; it will be protected in the state of Washington.”

By ordering the Washington Department of Corrections to make the purchase, Inslee obtained 30,000 doses, or what he is calling a three-year supply, of mifepristone.

Mifepristone is the first pill in what is commonly a two-step regimen for a chemical abortion. The drug works by cutting off the nutrients necessary for a growing unborn child to survive. A second drug, misoprostol, is then ingested 48 hours later to expel the dead baby.

Since mifepristone was approved by the FDA for use up to 10 weeks into pregnancy in 2000, chemical abortions have grown increasingly common, to the point that they now account for over half of U.S. abortions.

The abortion debate erupted anew last week after contradictory rulings from federal judges in Texas and Washington called the continued legality of mifepristone into question. The issue is currently being worked out in the judiciary.

Rather than waiting for the outcome, the governors in these three states have taken matters into their own hands.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healey announced on Monday that the state, through the University of Massachusetts, has ordered 15,000 doses of mifepristone. In an executive order also released Monday, Healey reaffirmed the state’s stance in support of mifepristone access and directed Massachusetts universities to expedite plans to make abortion drugs readily available.

“Mifepristone has been a safe and effective FDA-approved medication for over 20 years,” Healey said in a Monday press conference. “In Massachusetts, we are not going to tolerate this … medication abortion will remain safe, legal, and accessible here in the Commonwealth.”  

Meanwhile, the governors of New York and California have taken a slightly different approach.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state has stockpiled 2 million misoprostol pills for abortion use in anticipation of a ban on mifepristone.

On Tuesday, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state Department of Health is preparing to purchase a five-year supply of misoprostol.

While the typical chemical abortion regimen involves ingesting both mifepristone and misoprostol, abortion proponents have begun suggesting misoprostol alone could be used to achieve an abortion.

The World Health Organization stated in a 2018 report titled “Medical management of abortion” that “misoprostol is particularly useful [for abortion] in low-resource settings” and that “the use of misoprostol within abortion care — either in combination with mifepristone or alone — offers several advantages. It reduces the need for skilled surgical abortion providers, equipment, sterilization, and anesthesia while offering a noninvasive and highly acceptable option to pregnant individuals.”

However, there is significant debate as to whether it is safe for women to use misoprostol alone for an abortion.

Dr. Ingrid Skop, an OB-GYN and vice president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, told CNA that claims that misoprostol is only slightly less effective than the two-pill regimen is a “vast exaggeration.”

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“[Misoprostol alone] is way less effective. A meta-analysis shows that 22% of women who take misoprostol alone will fail to have a complete abortion and they will require surgery,” Skop said. “And the surgery is not the same as if they had chosen surgical abortion in the first place; in many cases these women bleed a lot before they finally receive care, the dead tissue in their uterus can become infected and that infection can scar their uterus and lead to future infertility or future pregnancy complications.”

The study mentioned by Skop can be found on the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine website. Notably, despite admitting 22% of women included in the study had to undergo surgical abortions after taking misoprostol alone, the study concludes that “misoprostol alone is effective and safe and is a reasonable option for women seeking abortion in the first trimester.”

“So, recommending misoprostol, if the abortion industry continues to do this, is going to show without a shadow of a doubt that they do not care for women, that they merely care for ending unborn human life,” Skop added.  

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