With the U.S. Supreme Court expected within weeks to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade case, journalists can anticipate an increased focus on abortion pills.
With that in mind, here’s a new tip sheet to aid reporters covering the patient-safety aspect of the use of this medication, also known as RU-486.
In 2020, medication abortion accounted for 54% of U.S. abortions, marking the first time it has made up the majority of all abortions, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. The institute’s report shows a slow uptick in the use of this treatment since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in 2000, first approved the use of the drug mifepristone, also known under the brand name Mifeprex. It’s taken in combination with another medicine, misoprostol, to end early pregnancies. The treatment interrupts the hormone progesterone that the body needs to continue a pregnancy.
State officials long have been preparing for a Supreme Court case that allows for either an outright ban or greater restrictions on abortion access, wrote Kaiser Family Foundation researchers Laurie Sobel, Alina Salganicoff, and Amrutha Ramaswamy in a May 16 report. There’s an expectation that half of states will seek to block legal abortion, they noted.
But there’s also “growing momentum in a handful of states” to protect abortion access and expand access for residents of states that ban or restrict it, according to Kaiser Family Foundation researchers. The expected state bans have spurred more interest in providing medication abortion via telehealth.
“It is not clear, however, if these clinicians would be subject to criminal or civil liability in the states that ban abortion or telehealth abortion should they dispense medication abortion pills to people living in states that either ban telehealth for medication abortion or ban all abortions,” Sobel, Salganicoff and Ramaswamy wrote. “Consequently, states seeking to protect abortion access are looking for ways to protect clinicians residing in their state from other states’ legal liability.”