Maine advocates denounce Texas court decision revoking FDA approval for medication abortion drug
Abortion rights advocates, including Democratic leaders in Maine, are denouncing a decision by a federal judge in Texas to revoke the FDA's approval of the medication abortion drug mifepristone.
The ruling issued late Friday by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk gives the federal government seven days to appeal. That means the medication is still available in Maine, but future access is uncertain.
Gov. Janet Mills called the decision "reckless," saying it ignored basic science and facts.
"Mifepristone has been safely used since its approval more than two decades ago and is especially vital to ensuring that women in rural areas have access to abortion care," she said. "Abortion remains safe and legal in Maine, and I will continue to defend access to reproductive health care with all I have for Maine people.”
Nicole Clegg of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England vowed to continue to offer medication abortion as the appeal process moves forward.
"Medication abortion is a safe and legal," she said. "This politically motivated ruling has the potential to cause real harm."
With the future availability of mifepristone in limbo, Maine Family Planning's 18 clinics are preparing to offer medication abortion using an alternative, one-drug regimen with misoprostol, said president George Hill. But it causes more side effects and is less effective.
"This is a 20-year-old drug that has a very strong track record of safety and efficacy," he said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine's 1st District is calling for urgent action to pass legislation she co-sponsored that would codify FDA guidelines allowing access to medication abortion.
"The Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act is a critical line of defense against the extreme attacks on women’s reproductive rights, and I am proud to be a cosponsor," she said. "Ultimately, we must also pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which codifies the underlying right to an abortion.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who voted against Judge Kacsmaryk's confirmation, said she disagrees with the decision.
"Mifepristone is an FDA-approved drug that has been on the market for more than two decades and extensively studied," she said.
A spokesperson for Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine's 2nd District said that “Congressman Golden disagrees with the ruling out of Texas.”
Medication is the most common method used for abortion. Abortion rights advocates say it's an important option in a rural state like Maine, where there are only three clinics that offer surgical abortions and many patients face transportation barriers.