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Legal morass brewing over some U.S. states’ fight to ban abortion pills

Legal morass brewing over some U.S. states’ fight to ban abortion pills

The overturning of Roe v. Wade has sparked legal battles across the U.S., as individual state trigger laws restrict access to abortion procedures. But the legal status of medication used to terminate pregnancy could see the fight enter an even-murkier legal zone.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month, states that have restricted abortion have made it clear this also applies to abortion through medication — a method now used in more than half of all abortions in the country.

But that has raised questions about enforcement of such laws, and whether states actually have the power to ban drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

It also means that it’s very likely the country’s top court isn’t finished with the issue of abortion.

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“It would almost certainly end up back at the Supreme Court, and there’s no telling how the conservative justices will rule,” said Lawrence Gostin, the faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

2 drugs used for medical abortion

A two-pill regimen is used for medical abortion — mifepristone and misoprostol — which is approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. 

Mifepristone, taken orally, prevents an existing pregnancy from progressing by dilating the cervix and blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone, while misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours later, works to empty the uterus by causing cramping and bleeding, similar to an early miscarriage.

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The use of the medication can be self-managed at home and no medical procedure is necessary afterward. But the drugs are subject to restrictions at both the state and federal levels.

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