Natalie Barr, Staff Writer
The Supreme Court of the United Stateson Friday, April 21 protected access to mifepristone, a medical abortion pill; the case will now proceed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to SCOTUS ruling.
Restrictions on the drug, used for over 20 years, came from Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, known as an anti-abortion activist, back on April 7, according to reports from CNN.
The case will return to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 17 for a decision. Depending on the outcome, it could be heard again in SCOTUS, according to CNN.
56% of the approximately 17,000 induced terminations of pregnancy in Virginia were performed using mifepristone, according to a reporting from the Virginia Mercury.
The use of mifepristone for medication abortion in Virginia has been slightly increasing since 2015, according to the Virginia Mercury.
Abortions through the second trimester remain legal in Virginia, according to state law.
Data from a March Washington Post-Schar School poll found 41% of Virginians would like to see less restrictive abortion laws compared to 17% who would like to see more restrictive laws put in place. 43% either would like the current abortion law to stay the same or had no opinion.
The same poll showed 33% of Virginians strongly supporting versus 36% strongly opposing a 15-week ban. The only exceptions for rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life.
Kiya Lawler, president of Her Campus at VCU, an online publication targeted to female college students, said her first reaction to hearing about the potential nationwide mifepristone ban was one of concern.
Lawler is worried about the impact this ban could have for reproductive accessibility and individuals who might need these services, she said.
“I think that restricting things like abortion or the abortion pill is definitely scary,” Lawler said.
Abortion and reproductive rights are not the only rights on the line, and Lawler wonders what could be next if mifepristone was banned, she said. It is important for people to speak out and participate in voting to protect what is being threatened, according to Lawler.
“I do believe that other states lead by example, and Virginia could very well be next and kind of inspire, unfortunately, legislation from that,” Lawler said.
Lawler knows this is a scary time, but she does not want people to give up because change needs to continue to happen, Lawler said.
“I don’t think that we should lose all hope now, because if we do, then there’s no mobilization to go out to vote, to go out to change these things,” Lawler said.
Jamie Lockhart, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia, thinks it is important to speak out for abortion protection, but this time is very important because it was an attempt at a national abortion ban, according to Lockhart.
“This latest attack on medication abortion disrespects the will of the people,” Lockhart said. “It is a blatant attempt to pass the de facto national abortion ban.”
If mifepristone would have been banned, the drug would be taken off the market nationwide, including states where abortions remain legal, like Virginia. While it would not be easy to overturn a federal law like this, voters at the state level can make their voices heard, according to Lockhart.
“All 140 of our state legislative seats are on the ballot, and so this year, this November, Virginians have the opportunity to elect leaders who are supportive of abortion rights and who will do everything they can to protect access here in the commonwealth,” Lockhart said.
Planned Parenthood providers across the state had made plans on the chance mifepristone was banned and planned to continue to offer medication abortion through the use of misoprostol, another abortion medication drug, and in-clinic abortion procedures, according to Lockhart.
“There’s a commitment to doing everything possible to ensure people still have access to abortion here in the commonwealth of Virginia,” Lockhart said.
Lockhart believes this potential ban could lead to greater implications for reproductive access, she said.
“If the Supreme Court allows this lower court decision to stand, it really opens up all sorts of drugs to be challenged. It sets such a dangerous precedent,” Lockhart said.
Mail-ordered chemical abortions are four times more dangerous than surgical abortion, and women are left alone without medical care, according to Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation.
“Virginian women deserve to know that the drugs they take have been approved because they meet stringent safety standards and not to meet a political agenda,” Cobb stated in an email.
Cobb stated she was grateful SCOTUS took a look at this mifepristone case.
The Commonwealth Times reached out to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office and received no response about the potential mifepristone ban or reaction to the SCOTUS ruling.