It has only been a few weeks since the Food and Drug Administration decided that abortion medication could be dispensed at pharmacies, including major retailers like CVS and Walgreens. The Justice Department also recently ruled that the U.S. Postal Service could mail abortion pills — even to states where abortion is banned. Nevertheless, anti-abortion legislators and anti-abortion groups are organizing to make abortion pills illegal, despite their evidence-based safety and efficacy.
However, a promising new court case filed by GenBioPro in West Virginia has the potential to alter the trajectory of abortion pill access. GenBioPro is one of two American manufacturers of mifepristone, one of the drugs used in a medication abortion regimen. The company sued to overturn West Virginia’s abortion ban because the anti-abortion law restricts dissemination of its FDA-approved medication. According to the lawsuit, the federal approval of abortion medication should trump the anti-abortion state law.
The decision on this case could further alter the state of abortion care across the country. Should the court rule in favor of GenBioPro, West Virginia and other states that have banned abortion may be compelled to allow abortion pills to be prescribed, sold and disseminated. Alternatively, if the court upholds the anti-abortion law, this decision may be a stepping stone for Religious Right legislators to ban other FDA-approved drugs that they disagree with, including morning-after pills.
While Roe v. Wade did not necessarily guarantee that abortion be made accessible, it did set a legal precedent that abortion was legal throughout the United States. Without Roe, every state has its own standards according to the state’s constitution and courts. While research has consistently shown that abortion, including abortion pills, are safe and effective, anti-abortion legislators use religion to justify its restriction.
The future of abortion pills continues to be uncertain. While we await this court decision, we can champion abortion rights in our communities, to our legislators and at the ballot box.