Mifepristone: US states stockpile abortion pills after court ruling

Mifepristone: US states stockpile abortion pills after court ruling
Mifepristone is used for a number of different medical purposes. Credit: AP

A growing number of US states are stockpiling doses of medication used for abortions, amid fears that a court ruling could restrict access to the most commonly used medication method.

Some states led by Democratic governors have been purchasing emergency stockpiles following conflicting court rulings over the legality of mifepristone.

Mifepristone - one of two drugs used in combination to end pregnancies - has been widely available in the US for more than 20 years, including for other medical purposes, but could soon be banned.

The stockpiling has been triggered by the actions of US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of the former Republican President Donald Trump.

Kacsmaryk has overruled decades of scientific approval last week and put federal approval of mifepristone in Amarillo, Texas, on hold.

US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of the former Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: AP

The state of Massachusetts is reported to have purchased enough doses of the drug to last for more than a year, Democratic Govenor Maura Healey said on Monday.

Last week, Democratic Govenor Jay Inslee announced that Washington state has purchased 30,000 doses of the generic version of the drug.

The shipment of mifepristone, which arrived in late March, is enough to last the state's residents three years, Mr Inslee said.

Meanwhile, California has secured an emergency stockpile of up to two million pills of misoprostol - the other drug used in abortion medication - Democratic Govenor Newsom announced.

“Abortion is still legal and accessible here in California and we won’t stand by as fundamental freedoms are stripped away,” Mr Newsom said on Friday.

While there are no plans yet in Connecticut to stockpile mifepristone, Attorney General William Tong said that he has been contacting major pharmacy chains to remind them the drug is legal and they should not be influenced by pressure from GOP attorneys general in other states.

"(I’m) obviously deeply disappointed that my colleagues have taken that action,” he said.

“We’re pushing back on that. We’re in communication with all the big pharmacy chains, advising them of their rights and obligations here in Connecticut.”

Govenor Gavin Newsom said California has secured an emergency stockpile of up to 2 million pills of misoprostol. Credit: AP

Clinics and doctors that currently prescribe the two-drug combination have said that if mifepristone is pulled from the market, they would switch to using only the second drug, misoprostol.

That single-drug approach has a slightly lower rate of effectiveness in ending pregnancies, but it is widely used in countries where mifepristone is illegal or unavailable.

If allowed to stand, the order issued last week could restrict access to the abortion medication as early as Friday.

The move is unsettling abortion providers less than a year after the reversal of Roe v. Wade already dramatically curtailed abortion access.

President Joe Biden said his administration would fight the Texas ruling.

The Biden administration slammed the ruling and appealed the decision on Monday, saying it would thwart the US Food and Drug administration's scientific judgment and “severely harm women, particularly those for whom mifepristone is a medical or practical necessity.”

Abortion providers have also criticised the ruling and vowed to continue providing medication for as long as possible.

Whole Woman’s Health, which operates six abortion clinics in five states, said it would continue to dispense mifepristone in person and by mail over the next week as they review the rulings.

If the Texas court's ruling takes effect, some providers are prepared to pivot to a misoprostol-only regimen while others may transition to only surgical abortions.

Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, said: “What we do know is that there will be significant confusion and chaos as providers try to provide the best care they possibly can for their patients.”

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