Heard on All Things Considered
A case before a federal judge in Texas could dramatically alter abortion access in the United States – at least as much, some experts say, as the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last year, which overturned decades of abortion-rights precedent.
A decision is expected soon in the case challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s approval more than 20 years ago of the abortion drug mifepristone, which a growing number of patients use to terminate pregnancies.
Jenny Ma, senior counsel with the Center for Reproductive Rights, says the outcome of the suit brought by a coalition of individuals and groups opposed to abortion – could amount to a “nationwide ban on medication abortion” with a greater impact than Dobbs.
“That decision left the decision about abortion up to the states,” Ma says, “but this would be one court in Texas deciding whether or not medication abortion could be allowed across this country, even in states that have protected abortion since the Dobbs decision.”
Tiny pill, big impact
Medication abortion — as opposed to a surgical procedure — is now the most common way that people terminate pregnancies.
That’s especially true in the first trimester when the vast majority of abortions occur. Abortion pills are increasingly relied on by people who live in places where access to clinics is limited by state laws or geography.
While various regimens exist for terminating pregnancies with pills, the gold standard for medication abortion in the United States is a two-drug protocol that includes mifepristone and another, less-regulated drug, misoprostol.
But now, a coalition led by the anti-abortion rights group Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas asking a judge to reverse that approval …