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21 states, DC ask judge to keep abortion pill on the US market

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(WASHINGTON) — Revoking the government’s decades-old approval of an abortion medication would represent a “dangerous attack” on public health, the attorneys general from 21 states and the District of Columbia told a Texas judge on Friday.

In a brief filed in the district federal court, the nearly two dozen state lawyers — each Democrats — objected to a lawsuit filed by conservatives challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s green light of the drug mifepristone more than 20 years ago.

If the judge agrees with the plaintiffs, mifepristone could no longer be prescribed for abortions, even in states where abortion is legal.

“Blocking access to this safe and effective medication is a dangerous attack on reproductive freedom and public health,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Decades of medical and clinical research have proven that medication abortion is safe. Despite these facts and its widespread use, we know this is not a debate about science.”

The filing represents the latest legal escalation in courts over whether Americans should have access to medication abortion.

Half of abortions in the U.S. rely on medication abortion, a two-drug regimen that includes misoprostol and the tightly regulated prescription medication mifepristone.

According to the FDA, mifepristone is safe and effective if used up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. The drug was sold in Europe and China before becoming available in the U.S. in 2000, and federal officials say no serious safety concerns have emerged since then.

A 2008 congressional watchdog review found no wrongdoing in the FDA approval process involving the drug.

Still, the conservative legal group Alliance for Defending Freedom has fought for years to revoke approval of the drug on the grounds that the FDA’s approach was flawed and that regulators ignored safety concerns.

“The FDA has completely failed to protect America’s women and girls when it comes to chemical abortion drugs,” said Julie Marie Blake, senior counsel for the plaintiff in the case.

“Any court — to look at the law and to look at the science — should agree that the FDA has failed its responsibility to protect women and girls, and that it’s time to remove these drugs from the market or at a minimum to put back important safeguards on their use,” she said.

Blake said that while the lawsuit would ban mifepristone for abortion, it would still allow the drug to be used in miscarriage care and for other health reasons like Cushing’s syndrome.

If the judge agrees and revokes access to mifepristone, abortion providers say it’s likely they will turn to prescribing misoprostol only to induce an abortion. This drug, which is also used to treat stomach ulcers and is not tightly regulated, can cause an abortion without mifepristone, but is considered less effective.

Still, they say clinics already overwhelmed with patients seeking abortions will likely have to turn people away, and more patients will turn to illegal online pill sites.

“We have a lot of unknowns,” said Ashley Brink, Wichita Clinic Manager at Trust Women Kansas.

“We aren’t fully prepared for what might happen. We can only give information to people that we have at this time,” she added.

The case was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. A ruling is expected in coming weeks.

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