The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to reinstate restrictions on the a medication abortion pill that allowed patients to receive it through the mail during the pandemic. The justices ruled 7 to 2 on the decision in favor of the U.S. Federal Drug Administration. The FDA has maintained a rule that a patient must travel to a clinic to pick up the abortion pill mifepristone for the past 20 years when the drug first came onto the market. Reproductive advocates and experts have said that is politically motivated. The patient can take the pill in a place of their own choosing.
A District Court in Maryland has 40 days to lift, modify or continue the order it previously made to allow the abortion medication mifepristone to be available through telehealth during the pandemic. The U.S. Supreme Court asked the lower court on Thursday to reconsider a case the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) brought against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the summer. ACOG wants the FDA to allow mifepristone to be available for abortion care through telehealth during the pandemic. Although the FDA approved mifepristone 20 years ago for abortion care, the FDA continues to regulate it as if it were a dangerous drug. The FDA argued in court that people should have to continue to pick up mifepristone at a health care provider during the pandemic.
The first reproductive rights test for the U.S. Supreme Court since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death will likely be the court battle over whether people should be able to access the medication mifepristone for abortion through telehealth. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requested the U.S. Supreme Court to stay a lower court’s decision to enable women to receive mifepristone through telehealth during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, people had to travel—in some cases hundreds of miles—to a clinic to receive the medication. But, patients do not have to take the medication at the clinic. They can return home to take it in the privacy of their homes.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other partners sought—and received—a preliminary injunction this summer from a Maryland judge barring the FDA from enforcing its in-person requirement to receive mifepristone.
A Maryland judge ruled last week that an abortion provider can deliver the abortion medication, mifepristone, to patients seeking abortion care through telehealth. But the court injunction is “temporary in nature,” Wendy Basgall, Southwest Women’s Law Center staff attorney, said. The American Civil Liberties Union sought a preliminary injunction, which the judge granted. But it only lasts while the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration of a federal public health emergency is in effect. Mifepristone is one of two medications that an abortion patient takes for a medical abortion.
The federal stimulus bill passed by Congress could lead to negative impacts on women’s health in New Mexico and other states. The unprecedented $2 trillion in federal relief, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump late last month is expected to provide aid to many who have been impacted by the economic fallout caused by the lack of infrastructure to contend with the respiratory virus. But buried deep within the nearly 1,000 page bill is language designed to take a swipe at Planned Parenthood. Businesses and nonprofits seeking relief money will have to go through the Trump Administration’s Small Business Association—and the agency has the ability to refuse the nonprofit organization, according to Vice. Anti-abortion lawmakers claimed it as a “win” against abortion rights.
New Mexico abortion fund providers are already seeing impacts as the public health emergency and financial crisis worsens during the COVID-19 global pandemic, according to advocates. A group of abortion fund providers in New Mexico issued a statement Friday to remind elected leaders and others that reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is not elective medicine. In line with the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recent statement that any reproductive procedure which, if delayed, will “negatively affect patient health and safety should not be delayed,” Indigenous Women Rising, Mariposa Fund and New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice issued their own statement to tell elected leaders to continue to respect reproductive healthcare for women. All three groups offer funding and other aid for people seeking an abortion. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum also signed the letter.
On controversial abortion bills, Democratic legislators have had a tendency this year to hear prolonged, passionate testimonies and debates—then quickly vote to table the bills. That happened again Thursday afternoon, when the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee devoted two hours to a controversial bill on what anti-abortion advocates call “born alive” infants. Several people testified in both support and opposition to the bill. Soon, Reps. Bob Wooley and Monica Youngblood, Republicans from Roswell and Albuquerque, respectively, asked lengthy questions of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington.
An hours-long debate over legislation that would bar late-term abortions in New Mexico led to the same fate as last year—a Senate committee party line vote against the measures. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-4 to table two bills by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, that would have banned surgical abortion procedures on viable fetuses at 20 weeks of gestation or more. One of the bills defines fetal viability as “when the life of the unborn child may be continued indefinitely by natural or artificial life-supportive systems.”
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Albuquerque is home to an abortion provider that practices the procedure into the third trimester of pregnancy. Sharer passed out pictures of his granddaughter Scarlett, who was born premature, to committee members during his presentation. He asked committee members what if Scarlett’s mother today was diagnosed with a terrible disease, evoking common arguments from pro-abortion rights advocates that late-term abortion procedures often involve pregnant women whose lives are in danger.