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

A right-wing group that has championed anti-abortion litigation across the U.S., including a landmark Supreme Court case that overturned Roe v. Wadeis suing the Food and Drug Administration to overturn its approval of a commonly used abortion drug.

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

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

The lawsuit claims the FDA lacks 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. Multiple studies have shown that it is overwhelmingly safe and effective and is used in about 54 percent of all abortions. The vast majority of abortions occur within the first nine weeks. In 2019, nearly 93 percent of all abortions took place before the 13th week.

Last year, the FDA permanently lifted the requirement for abortion drug prescriptions, allowing patients to access the drugs through telemedicine appointments and online pharmacies so patients can take the drugs at home.

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

In a statement to The independent, Alliance for Freedom Defense senior counsel Julie Marie Blake claimed that FDA-approved abortion drugs create “serious and life-threatening complications” for patients, despite evidence from major medical groups showing the opposite. Medication abortions requiring hospitalization for any reason usually occur in less than half of 1 percent of patients.

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

“On behalf of the national health care 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 one of the powerful anti-abortion groups that have worked with state legislatures to advance anti-abortion laws in an effort to mount legal challenges that would go to the Supreme Court.

At an anti-abortion Evangelists for Life conference in Washington in 2018, the group and other campaigns hailed a new legal strategy in state legislatures: promoting unconstitutional anti-abortion laws that would attract lawsuits from abortion rights groups who argue that they defy Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey protections.

Mississippi’s gestational age law, authored by the Alliance Defending Freedom, pits abortion rights groups in a legal battle that will eventually land in 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 among anti-abortion groups to make judicial appointments that could overturn Roe — the nation’s highest court revoked a constitutional right to abortion.

President Joe Biden’s administration and abortion rights advocates denounced the latest lawsuit.

“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 any basic care they need is completely dangerous and extreme.”

In its wake Dobbs decision, the administration asked 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 urged the FDA to eliminate barriers to abortion drugs, which are currently regulated under a “medically unnecessary in-person requirement” provision.

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

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith also introduced the Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act, which would codify FDA guidelines to ensure patients can access the drugs through telemedicine appointments and mail-order pharmacies.

Mutual aid organizations and international aid groups have also mobilized to connect patients with mail-order abortion drugs in an effort to circumvent state laws that criminalize US-based providers.

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