Abortion-by-Mail Canceled

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by Kristine Christlieb  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 14, 2021   

Trump defeats doctors in court

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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Supreme Court is siding with the Trump administration and reinstating regulations that require abortion-inducing drugs to be dispensed in person.

A 6–3 majority from the High Court on Tuesday granted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) its request to continue enforcing its rule that women who take mifepristone be required to pick it up in person rather than via mail. A lower court had halted application of the long-standing rule, arguing that the pandemic made it too difficult for women to pick up the abortion pill in person and thus posed a "substantial burden" on a woman's so-called right to abortion.

Pandemic Played a Role

Most of the justices in the majority issued the order without comment, while Chief Justice John Roberts clarified his reasoning in a separate opinion:

The question before us is not whether the requirements for dispensing mifepristone impose an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion as a general matter. The question is instead whether the District Court properly ordered the Food and Drug Administration to lift those established requirements because of the court's own evaluation of the impact of the COVID–19 pandemic. ... My view is that courts owe deference to the politically accountable entities [the FDA], with the "background, competence and expertise to assess public health."

Taking advantage of the pandemic last summer, doctors aligned with pro-abortion groups to challenge FDA rules that govern how powerful abortifacients are dispensed. The pro-abortion groups argued that in light of the growing China virus pandemic, regulations requiring the drugs only be dispensed in person posed a burden on women's health.

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The doctors pressing for abortion-by-mail include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the New York State Academy of Family Physicians. Joining the doctors is SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. An additional plaintiff in the case is Tufts University School of Medicine Associate Professor Honor MacNaughton.

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Judge Theodore Chuang

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has 60,000 members. It claims to be the "premier professional membership organization for obstetrician-gynecologists."

SisterSong's website says it "is a Southern-based, national membership organization; our purpose is to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities." 

Grounds for Appeal: Serious Side-Effects

The lower court judge, Theodore Chuang, an Obama appointee, ruled to allow abortion-by-mail. The Trump administration appealed that ruling noting the serious side effects associated with RU-486:

The agency [FDA] concluded that in-person counseling at the time of dispensing could help patients understand possible serious complications and what to do if they experienced an adverse event. ... It also determined that delay in taking the drug could increase the risk a patient would suffer serious complications, and that in-person dispensing could help avoid potential delay associated with obtaining the drug from a pharmacy, such as in instances where local pharmacies did not stock the drug. Those considerations readily justify the safety requirements.

The risks and violence associated with the abortion pill were graphically depicted in the movie Unplanned. It was the scene in which the character portraying Abby Johnson experiences the painful, traumatic and dangerous effects of the aborticide that earned the film an R rating for violence.

The risks and violence associated with the abortion pill were graphically depicted in the movie Unplanned.

RU-486 can be used into the second trimester of pregnancy, but it is usually limited to babies at no more than 70 days' gestation. Both The Washington Post and the Mayo Clinic report that the proper use of the drug requires visiting a physician. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, "A medical abortion can also be done at home, though you'll still need to visit your doctor to be sure there are no complications." The need for physician involvement in so-called medical abortions controverts pro-abortion groups' push for abortion-by-mail. 

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, the latter two writing their own dissent.

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