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NEWS: Appeals court appears likely to restrict access to key abortion pill

by | May 18, 2023 | Repro Health Watch

Appeals Court Appears Likely to Restrict Access to Key Abortion Pill

The Washington Post, May 17, 2023

“A federal appeals court on Wednesday seemed prepared to limit access to a key abortion medication first approved more than two decades ago, expressing deep skepticism that the government followed the proper process when it loosened regulations to make the pill more readily available. A panel of three judges, all of whom have previously supported other types of abortion restrictions, peppered lawyers for the government and the drug manufacturer with questions about why the Food and Drug Administration has allowed mifepristone to be prescribed by a medical professional other than a doctor and sent directly to patients by mail. The judges also appeared to embrace the suggestion that restoring prior restrictions on mifepristone would mean fewer women would need emergency care after using medication to terminate a pregnancy. Serious side effects occur in less than 1 percent of such abortions. Judge James C. Ho rejected the government’s argument that the court should not second-guess the expertise of the FDA, which first approved mifepristone in 2000. The medication is part of a two-drug regimen used in more than half of U.S. abortions, though the second drug – misoprostol – can also be used on its own to terminate a pregnancy. ‘I don’t understand this theme that FDA can do no wrong,’ Ho said. ‘We are allowed to look at the FDA just like we’re allowed to look at any agency. That’s the role of the courts.’ Judge Jennifer Elrod took the unusual step of chastising the drug company’s lawyer for pointed language in court filings that criticized an April ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Texas that would outright suspend FDA approval of the drug. Wednesday’s hearing at the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit was to consider an appeal of that ruling by lawyers for the Justice Department, representing the FDA, and the drug manufacturer Danco Laboratories. Revoking approval of mifepristone, they have said in court filings, would also jeopardize access to non-abortion drugs and more broadly impact medical research and innovation.”

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Abortion Bans Are Unpopular. Republicans Are Passing Them Anyway

The 19th, May 12, 2023

“With abortion bans becoming increasingly unpopular, Republican-led statehouses are walking a delicate line: Trying to advance bills that would restrict access to the procedure without drawing attention, circumventing normal processes to cram new policies through as legislative sessions come to a close. Last year, Republican lawmakers across the country pushed restriction after restriction in anticipation of the looming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which in June of last year allowed states to begin banning abortion. But now that those laws can actually take effect, legislators are newly attuned to potential political consequences. ‘Dobbs purported to be a state-by-state settlement, returning this to the states. We’re seeing that play out,’ said Melissa Murray, a law professor at New York University who focuses on reproductive rights. Lawmakers in a handful of states have pushed meaningful new restrictions. North Carolina legislators crammed a 12-week ban through last week; Gov. Roy Cooper has said he will veto the ban Saturday, and the legislature, where Republicans hold a supermajority, is likely to override that veto next week. Florida has passed a ban on abortions after six weeks – before many people know they are pregnant – and in South Carolina, where efforts to pass a total abortion ban fell apart after a legislative filibuster, lawmakers appear on track to pass a similar restriction, with plans to work past the end of their session to do so. North Dakota outlawed abortions entirely. And in Nebraska, where efforts to pass a six-week ban barely failed, legislators are pushing a 12-week abortion ban, with the lawmaking session set to end in early June. The unpopularity of abortion bans means that lawmakers pushing restrictions have in some cases relied on tactics that critics say helped insulate them from popular will. ‘The question of what to do now that there’s no constitutional right to an abortion and states can ban it – it forces a set of conversations and questions and concerns that haven’t happened in some of these places,’ said Rachel Rebouché, dean at the Temple University School of Law.”

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Over-the-Counter Birth Control Access Clears Final Hurdle Before Approval

Rewire News Group, May 17, 2023

“Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion access has fared very well when it has appeared on the ballot. Voters in California, Michigan and Vermont approved abortion-rights amendments to their state constitutions last year. In Kansas and Kentucky – both red states – voters rejected measures that could have led to bans. In Wisconsin this year, the candidate favoring abortion access easily won a judicial election focused on the issue. The 2024 elections offer supporters of abortion rights an opportunity to continue their winning streak. There are 10 states that both significantly restrict abortion (or may soon) and allow citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives, including Florida, Ohio and Arizona. Placing measures on the ballots there offers progressives a possible double victory – to expand access and energize 2024 turnout among Democratic voters. But it remains unclear how many of these states will hold referendums. Advocates have not yet collected the signatures they need in most states, nor have they started a national fund-raising campaign for the effort. At this point, some observers say they would be surprised if even five of the 10 states held initiatives next year. The situation has the potential to be a major missed opportunity for the abortion-rights movement. One progressive activist told us it would be ‘political malpractice.’ What explains the apparent lack of urgency? In interviews, some activists said that placing a measure on a ballot took time and money, and that they wanted to make sure the initiatives used language that would survive legal challenges. ‘You don’t get two bites at this apple,’ Sarah Standiford of Planned Parenthood Action Fund said. Other advocates pointed to internal disagreements and disorganization in the movement that have delayed action. The movement has not been able to agree on a national strategy, including whether ballot initiatives should use the word ‘women’ and how far into pregnancy abortion should remain legal.”

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Trust in Supreme Court Fell to Lowest Point in 50 Years After Abortion Decision, Poll Shows

AP News, May 17, 2023

“Confidence in the Supreme Court sank to its lowest point in at least 50 years in 2022 in the wake of the Dobbs decision that led to state bans and other restrictions on abortion, a major trends survey shows. The divide between Democrats and Republicans over support for abortion rights also was the largest ever in 2022, according to the General Social Survey. The long-running and widely respected survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago has been measuring confidence in the court since 1973, the same year that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. In the 2022 survey, just 18% of Americans said they have a great deal of confidence in the court, down from 26% in 2021, and 36% said they had hardly any, up from 21%. Another 46% said they have ‘only some’ confidence in the most recent survey. The drastic change was concentrated among women, Democrats and those who say a woman should be able to get an abortion if she wants one ‘for any reason,’ the survey shows. Just 12% of women said they have a great deal of confidence in the court in 2022, down from 22% a year earlier and from 32% in 2018. Confidence among Democrats fell to 8% in 2022 from 25% a year earlier. And among those who think abortion should be available to a woman who wants one for any reason, confidence in the court dropped from 25% to 12%. Even among Republicans, though, confidence has slipped somewhat over the past several years in a court dominated by Republican-appointed conservative justices. Twenty-six percent said they have a great deal of confidence in the court, down from 31% in 2021 and from 37% in 2018. The survey is conducted using in-person and online interviews over the course of several months. Most interviews were conducted after the court’s conservative majority issued its Dobbs decision in late June that overturned Roe and all were conducted after a draft of the decision was leaked seven weeks earlier.”

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A Year After Dobbs Leak, Democrats Still See Abortion Driving 2024 Voters

Roll Call, May 18, 2023

“Democrats looking at the 2024 landscape say abortion access remains a high priority for voters and they expect the issue that they used effectively during last year’s midterm elections to stay relevant on the campaign trail. Instead of fading away more than a year after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade first leaked, Democrats say the rapid changes to laws in different states keep the issue in the headlines. Just this week, Republicans in the North Carolina legislature overrode a veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper related to a 12-week abortion ban, while an appeals court heard arguments about whether to overturn federal approval of mifepristone, a common abortion medication. Democrats had already signaled they would keep the focus on abortion as they seek to win back control of the House next year, but the party’s commitment to the issue was underscored when President Joe Biden made a surprise stop Tuesday night at a gala hosted by EMILY’s List, which raises money to support Democratic women candidates who back abortion rights. Biden was there to honor former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who received an award at the event. He gave Pelosi a bouquet and said she would go down as one of the most ‘consequential’ speakers because of her legislative record. In her own remarks, Pelosi said that focusing on abortion helped Democrats limit their losses in midterm elections last year, so that even though the party lost control of the House, it is well-positioned for the 2024 elections, when a net gain of five seats would flip control. ‘The candidates believed that they could win. And they made a distinction in their districts between themselves and their opponents, especially on the issue of a woman’s right to choose and freedom and democracy in our country,’ Pelosi said. ‘So thanks to all of your help, we held them to five. That means it’s very doable for us to take back that House.'”

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Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.