Update: On the afternoon of April 14, the Supreme Court restored full access (for now) to mifepristone, one of two drugs used for a medication abortion. The move delays a federal appeals court ruling, allowing abortion providers to continue prescribing, providing, and distributing the pill until at least 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19.
Original article follows.
Last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled in favor of anti-abortion groups that sued the FDA over its approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, which has been available since 2000. The ruling, the latest dark spot in the right to abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned, would have suspended the FDA’s approval of the drug, removing the pill from the market, preventing people from accessing it and potentially making it illegal to sell at all in the US.
It would have come into effect on April 14, but late Wednesday, a federal appeals court ruled that mifepristone, which is used for medical abortions in combination with another drug called misoprostol, can still be available. Still, it upheld the Texas judge’s tighter restrictions: The pill can be used up to seven weeks of pregnancy (before it was 10 weeks) and it can’t be sent via mail, which is how most people access it. Then, yesterday the Biden administration said it would ask for emergency relief from the Supreme Court to step in and restore full access to the drug.
This is a big deal.
Over half of abortions in the U.S. are done with pills like this, which are scientifically proven to be safe and effective. The ruling could also set a precedent that judges with no scientific background can suspend other FDA-approved drugs down the road. “By hand-selecting one extremist judge, this anti-choice group has now thrown into question access to this drug, as well as access to any other FDA-approved drug that’s out there, from Tylenol to diabetes medication,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said while appearing on the April 13 R29 Twitch stream. “This is one man in Texas substituting his opinion for the science that the rest of the world has come to count on. That’s really dangerous. … We’ve all got to keep at work because this fight is nowhere near over.”
This is one man in Texas substituting his opinion for the science that the rest of the world has come to count on. That’s really dangerous.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
On her end, Whitmer is a staunch supporter of abortion rights and is doing what she can to protect them, especially in her state, she explained to Refinery29 Entertainment Director and Twitch host Melissah Yang. Earlier this month, she signed a repeal of a strict abortion ban that had been on the books in Michigan since 1931. (The statute still existed, but had been dormant since the original Roe ruling.) Her government has also been working alongside insurers to make sure they will still cover mifepristone and has been looking at stockpiling options for the drug.
But what can the rest of us do? “Well, not to sound like every other politician, but voting really is the most important thing,” Whitmer said. She credits her last victory at the polls, in part, to the fight for abortion rights: people came out to support what they believed in on the ballot, allowing her to keep up the fight legally. “You can see how quickly things will change — from a court that will rip away our rights to leaders at the state level who will restore them,” she said.
Also key? Getting more women of varying backgrounds running for office — and elected. That’s why, when Whitmer is out meeting young people, she’s always telling them to think about getting involved. “There are people in our Congress right now who don’t have a moral compass, who are there to benefit themselves, who have less to contribute to collective good,” Whitmer said. “We have a tendency to think, ‘I’ve got to have this degree, or this life experience, or I’m not there yet.’ BS. A lot of men run for office, coming out of the womb thinking they should be President of the United States. We shouldn’t let any of those fake barriers stand in our way. Where there are opportunities for me to make space and ensure that we empower real representation, I take them at every turn because I know we are better as a state, better as a democracy, if we’ve got a variety of viewpoints around the table.”