In response to the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturns the Court’s previous ruling on Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration identified two initial areas of concern with regards to the impact on patient access to care and medications: protecting the right to seek medical care out of state, and protecting access to medication.
Protecting the right to seek medical care out of state
In a July 8 White House statement, which outlined executive actions, the Biden administration echoed Attorney General Merrick Garland’s statement that “women who reside in states that have banned access to comprehensive reproductive care must remain free to seek that care in states where it is legal.”
“If any state or local official tries to interfere with women exercising this basic right, the Biden Administration will fight that deeply un-American attack,” the statement continued.
In early July, President Biden signed an Executive Order Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Services. “This Executive Order builds on the actions his Administration has already taken to defend reproductive rights by:
- Safeguarding access to reproductive health care services, including abortion and contraception;
- Protecting the privacy of patients and their access to accurate information;
- Promoting the safety and security of patients, providers, and clinics; and
- Coordinating the implementation of Federal efforts to protect reproductive rights and access to health care.”
President Biden has been vocal in his belief that states will prosecute child-bearing Americans who go out of state to get health services, stating, “I don’t think people believe that’s gonna happen. But it’s gonna happen, and it’s gonna telegraph to the whole country that this is a gigantic deal that goes beyond; I mean, it affects all your basic rights”.
Protecting access to medication
Mifepristone is one of the first medications that has faced the threat of bans in states with anti-abortion laws—a problem that goes beyond the drug’s use for abortive procedures.
Mifepristone, like any other FDA-approved drug, has undergone a rigorous development, clinical trial, and approval process before it reached the market. The drug “is available only under an FDA-approved Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program,” according to its developer, GenBioPro.
In addition to being used for early-stage abortions (defined as within 70 days from a patient’s last menstrual period), mifepristone is also an effective and safe drug commonly used in the treatment of missed or incomplete miscarriages, which can cause sepsis, acute blood loss, and death.
Beyond managing pregnancies and miscarriages, mifepristone is also a treatment for hyperglycemia in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, and shows promise in treating breast cancer, brain cancer, prostate cancer, alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression—though researchers are growing concerned about the impact such bans could have on these developments, as NBC News reported.
Not only would any ban on mifepristone make treating and managing miscarriages more difficult to impossible in some circumstances, and potentially set back medical research, a ban would also set a dangerous precedent for the banning of other drugs considered abortifacient or that could potentially cause birth defects.
Attorney General Garland stated, “States may not ban mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”
The White House supported his position, saying, “In the face of threats from state officials saying they will try to ban or severely restrict access to medication for reproductive health care, the President directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to identify all ways to ensure that Mifepristone is as widely accessible as possible in light of the FDA’s determination that the drug is safe and effective – including when prescribed through telehealth and sent by mail.”