UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity update on mifepristone rulings

Yesterday, a federal judge in Texas ordered a hold on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a medication for abortion and miscarriage that has been scientifically approved for decades. The FDA and leading health organizations dispute the ruling’s claims. The same day, a federal judge in Washington state issued an opposite ruling.

The full repercussions of these two competing decisions aren’t yet known, and appeals are likely. But if the Texas ruling stands, healthcare providers’ ability to mail and dispense mifepristone would very likely be restricted.

The decisions do not change access to medication abortion in Wisconsin. Due to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and an 1849 abortion ban, medication abortion is not currently available through the formal healthcare system in Wisconsin unless to save the life of the pregnant person. However, the Texas ruling could have negative implications for miscarriage management and labor management in Wisconsin, given that mifepristone is a standard medicine used in miscarriage care as well as second-trimester labor induction.

Medication abortion, often called the abortion pill, is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy. Medical and public health organizations recommend two medication abortion regimens: mifepristone and misoprostol used together, or misoprostol used alone.

In response to the Texas decision, Jenny Higgins, director of the Collaborative for Reproductive Equity at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said, “This ruling is likely to jeopardize the use of an overwhelmingly safe, effective, and evidence-based medication used in both abortion care and miscarriage management. It could create additional barriers to needed healthcare and burdens people who already face structural barriers to reproductive care, including people of color and people living in rural communities.”

“That said,” she adds, “people should know that medication abortion is possible even if mifepristone is not available. Experts have established that misoprostol alone remains safe and effective for abortion care, as well as miscarriage management.”

Higgins is available for media interviews about the ruling and its impact.

A recent CORE brief explains medication abortion, recent changes in federal policy with consequences for medication abortion access, and other current or anticipated legal and policy challenges. However, the landscape is in flux, given the most recent ruling. CORE will continue to monitor, assess, and share developments.