Abortion pills are safe and effective. There is no evidence-based reason to totally ban or severely restrict their access. And yet, that is just what very well may happen if the ultra-extremist Supreme Court so rules.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear challenges from the Biden administration, as well as the mifepristone drugmaker, defending the ease and accessibility of the abortion pill. Currently, mifepristone is available up until 10 weeks of gestation and by mail in many states throughout the country.
Technically, it’s a good sign that the high court agreed to hear the appeal over restrictions to this status quo. However, it is certainly possible that the anti-abortion majority on the Supreme Court could rule in June that these standards no longer apply.
The battle over the abortion pill has been waged since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved mifepristone in 2000. Perhaps realizing that abortion medication had the power to democratize and revolutionize abortion access, anti-abortion legislators and activists were swift to restrict it. Despite the abortion pill being safer than Tylenol, penicillin and Viagra, it was placed on the REMS program in 2007.
The REMS program, or Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategy, makes it difficult for people to become certified prescribers. It also severely limits how people can get abortion pills, including by mail or pharmacy. Although the FDA amended the REMS program by lifting the in-person dispensing requirement, it still makes it unnecessarily difficult for brick-and-mortar pharmacies to become certified in order to do that.
But threats to the abortion pill grew even worse last April when U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a former anti-abortion activist turned Texas judge, ruled that mifepristone should be nationally banned. Shockingly, Kacsmaryk referred to the Comstock Act to justify his decision about why abortion pills should not be available by mail.
The Comstock Act was introduced in 1873 and has never been fully repealed. The “chastity law” restricts anything deemed to be illicit or obscene, including family planning resources and information. Margaret Sanger was famously imprisoned for violating the Comstock Act when she mailed contraceptives in the mail. As an aside, the law’s namesake, Anthony Comstock, was inspired by his strict religious upbringing.
Should the U.S. Supreme Court ban or restrict the abortion pill, the consequences would be ruinous for millions of women and people throughout the country. In fact, over half of all U.S. abortions are via medication abortion. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology affirm liberalizing — not restricting — abortion pills. And the majority of Americans agree that abortion pills should be available in their state.
However, the shocking repeal of Roe v. Wade has proved to us that science, public opinion and public health do not matter in the face of Christian nationalism. Reason and secularism are urgently needed to ensre the reproductive health of millions of people. Abortion pills and their accessibility should be protected — not prevented.