Opinion: It’s time to rein in dangerous chemical abortion drugs
By Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Opinion Contributors
(The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill.)
Earlier this year, the Biden administration’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alarming rule change to allow dangerous life-ending chemical abortion drugs to be ordered online or purchased in a retail pharmacy without ever seeing a doctor in person, turning brick-and-mortar pharmacies and post offices into abortion centers. This reckless policy is the latest in a long line of decisions by the FDA that have put the profits of abortion industry over both federal law and the health and safety of mothers and babies who are directly threatened by chemical abortion drugs. For the first time in decades, however, accountability could be on the horizon for the FDA and the abortion industry.
On Nov. 18, 2022, four national medical associations and four doctors, who care for pregnant and post-abortive women, sued the FDA for its decisions to approve and subsequently deregulate chemical abortion drugs. We were proud to lead a delegation of 13 senators and 54 representatives in signing an amicus brief, with the help of Americans United for Life, in support of these pro-life medical associations and doctors.
Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA before the Northern District of Texas presents a long-overdue opportunity for the court to rein in the FDA for unlawfully exceeding its authority in putting the health and safety of women and girls in jeopardy, and for running afoul of longstanding federal laws that criminalize the mailing and shipping of abortion drugs (despite the administration’s efforts to reinterpret these laws out of existence).
Since the FDA first approved mifepristone in 2000—the first of a two-drug regimen to cause chemical abortions, we now know even more about the harms these drugs cause to women and girls, and their unborn babies. Potential complications for the mother from abortion drugs can include severe bleeding, infection, potential surgical intervention, and even death.
Despite weak reporting requirements, we know of at least 28 deaths of pregnant women and more than 500 life-threatening complications associated with mifepristone—on top of thousands of serious adverse events. Chemical abortions are four times more dangerous to the mother than surgical abortions and can cause serious complications. Compared to surgical abortions, women who use chemical abortion drugs are 50 percent more likely to require emergency care within 30 days of use.
In approving abortion drugs, FDA grossly abused an expedited approval process by treating pregnancy as an “illness” and asserting that the drugs provide “meaningful therapeutic benefit” over existing treatments. The FDA also failed to comply with its obligations under federal law to study the impact of the drugs on adolescent girls and failed to prove their safety under the labeled conditions.
The FDA’s most recent approval of do-it-yourself abortion drugs by mail and telemedicine, also unlawfully prioritized the interests of the abortion industry over the exacting safety protocols that the law demands, while also violating federal criminal laws. Under the FDA’s new teleabortion protocols, pregnant women are denied chance to be first clinically screened in-person by a doctor to rule out potentially life-threatening contraindications like an ectopic pregnancy or to accurately determine the age of the baby. Abortionists, instead, can offload care for their patients’ complications onto local emergency rooms.
The American people deserve better from their government, especially when it comes to protecting innocent lives and prioritizing women’s health and safety. The FDA was created to protect the public from dangerous drugs, but the agency has violated its core purpose with its decision to approve and then deregulate abortion drugs, to the point of now allowing the drugs to be mailed to pregnant women who have not seen a doctor in person.
Finally, the courts should not allow themselves to give in to the intimidation and scare tactics of pro-abortion forces. We are deeply concerned by the dangerous rhetoric from some elected Democrats calling for the FDA to resist any decision in this case if it is not in favor of the abortion industry. Respect for the rule of law necessarily entails respect for the authority of the judiciary to apply the law, and a duty to comply with any lawfully-issued injunction.
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We again call on the FDA to pull the deadly abortion drug mifepristone from the market, or at the very least, restore the health and safety requirements that have been callously and recklessly dismantled by the Biden administration. Since the FDA continues to fail in its duty and exceed the powers given to it by Congress, we will continue to support efforts through the courts to hold the FDA accountable.
Women and their unborn children deserve nothing less.
August Pfluger represents the 11th District of Texas and Cindy Hyde-Smith is the junior senator for Mississippi.