COLUMBUS, OH – Today, experts from Abortion Fund of Ohio (AFO)’s Legal Access Program and ACLU of Ohio weigh in on the Fifth Circuit ruling on Mifepristone, following an emergency appeal of a Texas judge’s order suspending the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s 2000 approval of the medication for use in ending a pregnancy.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Mifepristone—one of two primary medications used to end a pregnancy in the US—must remain accessible, subject to certain restrictions, while the case continues through the appeals process. The latest restrictions, if enforced, would limit the use of Mifepristone to seven weeks’ gestation, as opposed to ten weeks, and prohibit distribution of Mifepristone by mail across the country. The Department of Justice is expected to appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court immediately. The FDA, which has unique enforcement discretion, hasn’t announced if or how they will enforce this ruling.
Many states may still allow Mifepristone to be prescribed off-label up through 10 weeks. However, an Ohio statute mandates that Ohio abortion providers must use FDA-approved labeling protocols when prescribing mifepristone for abortion care.
The Fifth Circuit imposed a 7-week restriction despite evidence-based protocols recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the National Abortion Federation, and the World Health Organization. The Court’s outdated, ill-advised ruling not only limits Ohioans’ Mifepristone access to 7 weeks, but it also requires excessive patient travel to clinics, twice as many in-clinic visits, and an unnecessarily high dosage of the drug. Barring any additional changes, these provisions will take effect when a stay of the Texas judge’s ruling ends on Friday, April 14th, 2023.
“Ohioans should know that abortion, including medication abortion, is still legal up through 21 weeks and 6 days from the first day of your last menstrual period,” AFO Interim Executive Director & attorney, Maggie Scotece notes, “This decision is an embarrassment for its rejection of medical expertise, reliance instead on medical misinformation, and the archaic, long-dormant, Comstock Act of 1873. For those of us living in the 21st century, know that Ohio’s abortion providers and legal experts are keeping close watch on Mifepristone access. Patients: Keep your scheduled appointments, and discuss options directly with your provider.”
“The implications of this decision go far beyond abortion and have the potential to deny people access to other critical, life-saving drugs. The ACLU has long fought to expand access to medication abortion care, and we will continue to use every tool at our disposal until everyone can access the safe and essential reproductive health care they need,” added Jessie Hill, Cooperating Attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.
Abortion Fund of Ohio urges patients and advocates with questions about their legal rights to consult AFO’s Legal Access Program, which provides free, confidential, & brief legal assistance regarding self-managed abortion, judicial bypass, & more. Ohioans can request legal assistance from Abortion Fund of Ohio’s Legal Access Program through an online intake or by phone at 614-799-2843. Abortion seekers in need of practical or financial support can contact AFO via website or by phone at 614-300-7811.