NICOLE RUSSELL: Chemical abortion is a tragedy for women and babies—it's not just popping a pill

The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a case about the availability of the abortion pill mifepristone, that doctors didn’t have standing to challenge the FDA’s expansion of access to the drug. The ruling isn’t surprising — the case presented on behalf of the doctors isn’t persuasive — but the case does highlight several aspects of today’s ongoing abortion debate.

The left has both applauded and expressed concern about the ruling. Some interpret that the Supreme Court is “preserving” access to the drug, even though that’s not exactly what their ruling says. The women of “The View” said the ruling does “restore” some of their faith in the Supreme Court. Others point out that conservatives might be onto something, by challenging the abortion drug. In the New York Times, Jesse Wegman’s headline conveys concern: “The Abortion Pill Stays Legal But For How Long?” “Based on the right-wing supermajority’s open hostility to reproductive rights, there’s good reason to worry,” Wegman writes, about the abortion pill’s dubious future.

The left’s concern is interesting: If mifepristone is safe and the FDA is well within its purview to expand its access, it’s unlikely a case will successfully challenge this, even with the current Supreme Court makeup. This last case didn’t even stand a chance. It’s clear that the left still views abortion, as an issue, as a sacrosanct, tenet of their party. Roe was already taken from them. What would people do without mifepristone?

Because of the lack of standing, the justices did not discuss the merits of the case, or whether the FDA was right to expand access to mifepristone. The results of the expanded access to mifepristone are interesting, particularly as it coincides with Dobbs, the case that reversed Roe v. Wade and turned abortion rights back to the states.

Despite the Supreme Court overturning Roe in 2022, statistics show abortions have reached their highest level in a decade, thanks to the availability of medications that facilitate abortions. There were more than 1 million abortions in the U.S. in 2023. Over 60% were via medication. This should be alarming, even discouraging, to pro-life advocates, who hoped that overturning Roe would result in a legal and cultural shift toward embracing the unborn.

One of the concerns of the availability and wide use of the drugs is their effect on a woman’s body while facilitating an abortion. The effects, like bleeding, cramping, and pelvic pain, could be scary and overwhelming to women who are unprepared to see the medication abort their baby in real time, often while they’re at home.

Abby Johnson, CEO and Founder of And Then There Were None, echoed this in a statement.

“My own chemical abortion was one of the worst experiences of my life. I thought I was dying. I'm not alone,” Johnson says. “I've spoken to hundreds of women who have had similar experiences and all of us wonder why we were never told this would happen. The money grab of the abortion industry is very real and it's the women who always come out last. I won't stop telling my story. Many of us who have experienced chemical abortion won't either.”

One 2021 study on mifepristone suggested that there are adverse effects of the drug, including death. The conclusion? “Significant morbidity and mortality have occurred following the use of mifepristone as an abortifacient. A pre-abortion ultrasound should be required to rule out ectopic pregnancy and confirm gestational age. The FDA…significantly underestimates the adverse events from mifepristone.”

It is a concern that the left wants to preserve abortion so badly, via any means, that they are willing to endorse an abortion drug that could cause women pain, even death.
 
This means there is still work to be done for the conservative movement. The knowledge that 60% of women are still choosing to go through this uncomfortable, even painful, experience in order to have an abortion, shows that there is a need for more education and compassion for women in this position. Conservatives can step into this space without judgment or condemnation, but instead with empathy.

Conservatives did the right thing in pushing for heartbeat laws that might ultimately challenge Roe. It's also still right to push back on the FDA to ensure women remain safe and healthy. But it’s also obvious that banning abortions has not quite shifted culture or laws the way conservatives hoped. This is unfortunate but not surprising: Laws are an attempt to legislate morality, but they only go so far.

Conservatives must try to continue to reach women where they are and learn: Why are so many still having abortions? Why are so many willing to take this drug? These answers can help us communicate to them, comfort them and offer them solace and options beyond abortion. If this case shows us anything, it’s that abortion still harms moms and babies, and there’s more work to do.
 

Image: Title: abortion pill
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