Garland Warns States About Abortion Pills

Experts say it's unclear whose policy would prevail, so the courts may decide
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2022 12:15 PM CDT
Garland Tells States He'll Protect Access to Abortion Pills
Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a news conference on June 13 at the Department of Justice in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Despite the Supreme Court's decision on abortion rights, Attorney General Merrick Garland has told the states the Department of Justice will "work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom," starting with preserving access to abortion pills. Garland noted in a statement Friday, issued after the court's ruling was announced, that the FDA has approved the use of mifepristone, Time reports. "States may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA's expert judgment about its safety and efficacy," Garland's statement said.

President Biden made a similar promise Friday, saying he's telling the Department of Health and Human Services to take unspecified steps to keep abortion pills available to the "fullest extent possible," per NBC News. More than half of all abortions in the US are induced by medication. The FDA removed a requirement that the pills be picked up in person in December, allowing them to be prescribed online and mailed. Mifepristone is approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Taken in combination with misoprostol, the drugs can safely cause an abortion. Mifepristone has had FDA approval for more than 20 years.

In spite of the FDA decision, several states have moved against the pills. Louisiana made mailing abortion pills illegal this month, providing for a five-year prison sentence. Experts say it's not clear whether states can ban a medication approved by the federal government, or whether the US can override a state prohibition. The courts would have to decide the issue. As of now, a University of California, Berkeley law professor said, the FDA can proclaim a medication safe, and "states can regulate the practice of medicine within their borders." (More abortion pills stories.)

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