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AG Nessel Joins Multistate Coalitions to Defend and Protect Access to Medication Abortion
February 17, 2023
LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined two multistate coalitions in support of access to medication abortion, both of which are consistent with her long-standing support for safe reproductive care, including abortion.
“I am committed to ensuring that safe and effective reproductive health care remains accessible to the residents of Michigan,” Nessel said. “Research has proven that mifepristone and misoprostol are safe and reliable noninvasive reproductive health care options for those who need it. If enacted, this suit will take FDA approved medication off the market nationwide without any public health-related rationale.”
Alliance of Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The first coalition, led by New York, defends the FDA’s approval of mifepristone by providing substantial evidence that the drug is safe and effective. In the amicus brief, the coalition of 22 states asks the court to reject a challenge brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to revoke the FDA’s approval of the medication abortion drug mifepristone. The case is being considered before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
The brief warns that withdrawing federal approval for mifepristone would drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management for millions of people across the country, including in Michigan. A ban on mifepristone would affect states where abortion is legal. The coalition is urging the court to reject this baseless attempt to undermine the FDA’s authority, upend decades of medical practice, and trample the rule of law.
In 2000, the FDA approved mifepristone as a single-dose oral medication used for early-term abortions. Since its approval, mifepristone has been safely used by approximately five million persons to terminate a pregnancy and is used in more than half of all abortions today. Decades of clinical research and studies have confirmed mifepristone’s safety and efficacy.
If the district court orders the FDA to withdraw or suspend approval for mifepristone, the medication would be removed from the market nationwide. In their brief, the coalition states argue that requiring the FDA to withdraw or suspend its approval of mifepristone despite the overwhelming clinical data demonstrating its safety and efficacy risks undermining the integrity of the FDA-approval process for other drugs.
In addition to AG Nessel, the amicus brief was also signed by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Letter in support of CVS and Walgreens
The second multistate coalition, led by California, involves a letter sent to executives at CVS and Walgreens supporting those pharmacies’ intention to begin offering mifepristone and misoprostol in their retail pharmacies consistent with state and federal law. The coalition’s letter also responds to a letter from anti-abortion states questioning the legality of the plan to fill prescriptions for mifepristone and misoprostol. The letter from the opponents of the medications cite the Comstock Act, a set of laws that date back to the 1870s, as evidence that the distribution of medication abortion is prohibited by law.
In their letter to the pharmacies, the coalition states counter that the Comstock Act does not categorically prohibit mailing items that can be used to terminate a pregnancy and does not apply unless the sender intends the recipient to use them unlawfully. The coalition states also call the opponents’ argument a “meritless” and “antiquated legal theory” that the anti-abortion states are attempting to revive, a theory that has been repeatedly and consistently rejected.
The availability of medication abortion has been particularly critical in providing access to abortion in low-income, underserved, and rural communities. The coalition asserts that limiting access to mifepristone and misoprostol would disproportionately harm vulnerable, low-income, and underserved communities, causing a rise in demand for procedural abortions. This demand would lead to overburdened clinics, longer wait times, later and riskier procedures, and more complicated and costly logistics for many patients, especially those in low-income and rural communities.
According to 2020 data, 89 percent of U.S. counties have no abortion clinic, and 38 percent of women of reproductive age reside in counties with no clinics. Moreover, lack of access to safe abortion care leads to worsened health outcomes and higher mortality, especially for Black women.
In the second multistate coalition, which is co-led by the attorneys general of California, Oregon, and Washington, AG Nessel is joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.