Social Navigation

Abortion clinics in 3 states file lawsuit to protect access to pills


Abortion providers in three states filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to preserve access to mifepristone, an abortion pill, even as the drug is threatened by a separate lawsuit in Texas that is playing out in the US court system.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Virginia on behalf of clinics in Virginia, Montana and Kansas, is the latest lawsuit over the decades-old pill, part of the two-drug regimen used in the most abortions in the United States.

A Texas federal judge issued a ruling last month that would have revoked the pill’s longstanding approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, an unprecedented challenge for the federal drug regulator. But the Supreme Court blocked that ruling and other lower court limits from taking effect while the trial continues.

Abortion rights advocates and opponents continue to scramble for a legal foothold on the issue across the country.

Clinics in Virginia, Montana and Kansas sued the FDA Monday in federal court to force the agency to drop several longstanding restrictions on how mifepristone can be prescribed.

But from a practical perspective, the groups said they were seeking a court order that would protect access to mifepristone as litigation over the drug continues. That’s what 18 liberal states achieved last month when a Washington state judge issued a ruling ordering the FDA to preserve access to mifepristone in those states regardless of conflicting court rulings. . The decision came minutes after the Texas ruling, confusing abortion providers and their patients.

Plaintiffs in Monday’s lawsuit said they hoped to avoid similar chaos as the legal battle over mifepristone continues. A New Orleans appeals court is expected to hear arguments in the Texas case later this month.

“Plaintiffs cannot rearrange their practices overnight without notice – healthcare has no on-off switch. They and their patients need clarity about their continued supply of mifepristone,” says the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the clinics by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based legal and advocacy group that works to ensure access to abortion.

The group said it included abortion providers in Virginia, Montana and Kansas in the lawsuit because those states are neither party to Texas nor Washington cases but have many lawmakers hostile to the lawsuit. access to abortion and “are caught in the middle of this maelstrom”. .”

The FDA approved mifepristone, in combination with a second pill, as a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy in 2000. Mifepristone is sometimes used for other reasons, including managing miscarriages.

At the time of approval, the FDA placed a number of restrictions on the drug, including requiring prescribers to undergo certification and women to sign an consent form before taking it.

In recent years, the FDA has made mifepristone easier to obtain, removing a two-decade-old requirement that women take the pill in person. But the FDA has repeatedly concluded that the remaining requirements — including prescriber certification — are necessary.

In their lawsuit, the clinics argue that these restrictions “stigmatize and undermine access to medical abortion.”

Abortion providers suing include: Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, a nonprofit organization that operates health facilities in Charlottesville and Alexandria, Va.; Whole Woman’s Health of the Twin Cities, LLC, in Minnesota, which provides medical abortion telehealth services in Virginia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and Illinois; and Blue Mountain Clinic, a family practice in Missoula, Montana, which opened in 1977 as the state’s first and only abortion clinic.

Other providers named as plaintiffs include: Helen Weems, a certified nurse practitioner licensed to practice in Montana and owner of All Families Healthcare, a sexual and reproductive health clinic in Whitefish, Montana; and Trust Women, which operates clinics in Wichita, Kansas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.