On Friday May 2, the Supreme Court ruled that the abortion drug Mifepristone will remain available to the public. In light of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, some challenged the legality of this medication which can terminate pregnancies of up to 10 weeks. Currently, this pill is used for more than half of the pregnancy terminations in the United States. While the Supreme Court ruled that Mifepristone will not be banned, this ruling is only temporary, and it is almost inevitable that the issue will be brought back to the Supreme Court in the future. Additionally, the pill is still extremely hard to obtain in the 13 states where abortion has been banned outright. Therefore, it is still relevant to discuss why it is crucial that the ruling doesn’t get repealed going forward and why Mifepristone should be readily available in all states.
First, Mifepristone is a safe and effective way to terminate pregnancies. Not only is the pill cheaper than surgical abortion, but it also has fewer side effects. Abortion restrictions often result in a lack of proper medical care due to the vagueness of legislation surrounding it. Fears in the medical field concerning the legal consequences of administering abortion care can result in dangerous and life-threatening situations for women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. Physicians have expressed concerns that the wording of restrictive abortion laws make it difficult to determine when a mother’s life is truly at risk and how imminent that risk must be before medical providers can take action. Thus, the availability of Mifepristone takes away the risks that come with women not being able to acquire surgical abortions.
For example, Amanda Eid is one of five women suing the state of Texas because she was unable to receive an abortion and was in a critical condition as a result. Eid went into labor only four months into her pregnancy and was still unable to get an abortion due to her state’s laws. Doctors said there was no chance Eid's child could survive, and that the nearest state where she could legally get an abortion was an eight-hour drive away. She later wrote in an online essay that she feared she would develop sepsis, which, “in a car in the middle of the West Texas desert, or 30,000 feet above the ground, is a death sentence.” According to Eid, the doctors would only feel “legally safe to terminate the pregnancy,” once she had developed symptoms of sepsis, a life-threatening medical emergency. 12 hours after they terminated her pregnancy, doctors had to move her to the ICU, due to the immense toll sepsis took on Eid’s health. While Eid did not plan to terminate her pregnancy, many women who want abortions in states like Texas, where abortion is banned, may face the same complications faced by Eid with doctors in life threatening situations. Because of cases like this, it is vital that Mifepristone is legal in all states so that women who want to can terminate pregnancies early and avoid potential health risks.
Banning Mifepristone would not only take away a relatively safe method of terminating pregnancies, but it would also disproportionately affect women of lower incomes. According to the BBC, women living under or around the poverty line are less likely to have health insurance, and are more likely to live in rural areas where access to abortion providers is limited. Banning Mifepristone will make it more difficult for these women to receive the help they need. In addition, making reproductive health care less accessible will not stop these women from having abortions; women will still seek out abortions, even if they are illegal, resulting in unsafe, unregulated abortions without the presence of a doctor.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the legality of Mifepristone was a victory for abortion rights in America, but only a temporary one. More challenges to the pill’s legality are likely to return to the Supreme Court, and Mifepristone still remains largely unavailable in the 13 states that banned abortion. This victory is not enough, as it only acts as a momentary repose. The U.S. must guarantee the right to Mifepristone for women in all states. In a time where it seems as though our nation is going backwards with its abortion policies, the right to accessible, non-surgical abortions must exist to ensure the safety and autonomy of all women.