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As Abortion Pill Cases Hit The Supreme Court, US Sees Highest Number Of Abortions In Over A Decade

Abortions in the United States reached their highest number since 2011, according to the latest figures released March 19 by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research group. The rise tracks with FDA rulings in 2016 and 2021 that loosened abortion pill restrictions.

The estimated 1,026,690 abortions recorded in the U.S. health system also marked a 10% rise since the last reporting year of 2020. And the percentage of abortions via the abortion pill regimen rose significantly as well, jumping to 63% in 2023 from 53% in the 2020. The percentage is more than double that of 2014, when chemical abortions comprised 31% of the abortion total.

The rise in “medication” or chemical abortions is “nothing short of a tragedy,” Tessa Longbons Cox, senior research associate at the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, said in a statement.

“While Guttmacher’s report doesn’t count abortion drugs illegally mailed into pro-life states from other states with so-called ‘shield laws,’” said Cox, “other research suggests these account for a large share of mail-order abortions. These numbers are unfortunately not surprising given abortion advocates post-Dobbs, including Guttmacher, have not only pushed unlimited abortion, for any reason, at any point in pregnancy, but supported the removal of safeguards on abortion drugs at the expense of women’s safety.”

“We know from major international studies that abortion drugs pose four times the risks of surgical abortion,” she continued, “but the abortion lobby consistently downplays these risks that undermine their narrative. Given the FDA’s recent push to deregulate these drugs and not requiring an in-person visit, what we’re witnessing is a new abortion landscape that prioritizes putting women’s health and safety last.”

High Court Hears Arguments on Abortion Pill Rules

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s relaxation of rules that govern how abortion-causing drugs are given and accessed.

The abortion drug mifepristone has been legally available in the United States since FDA approval in 2000. The FDA, in 2016 and 2021 under Presidents Obama and Biden, removed what pro-life advocates and some doctors argue were medically valid safeguards in order to increase access to the abortion drug regimen of mifepristone and its companion drug, misoprostol.

With those safeguards removed, women can access the abortion drugs by mail delivery and without in-person medical visits. Further, the abortion pills are legally available at 10 weeks’ gestation, up from six weeks when the FDA first approved mifepristone in 2000.

Pro-life groups, along with the respondents in the case, four doctors and four medical associations led by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, have argued the relaxed FDA standards put more women at risk of serious complications.

Erin Hawley, a senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the groups of Christian physicians and health care workers including emergency room doctors who deliver babies, told the court that the FDA in 2021 “approved abortion by mail based on data it admitted was not adequate” and violated legal requirements in doing so.

“FDA’s outsourcing of abortion drug harm to [the] respondent doctors forces them to choose [in emergency room situations] between helping a woman with a life-threatening condition and violating their conscience. This hostage choice is intolerable,” Hawley said.

“On the merits, FDA failed to comply with basic APA [Administrative Procedure Act] requirements. In 2021, it eliminated the initial in-person visit based on data it says elsewhere is unreliable,” Hawley added. “And in 2016, it failed to consider or explain the cumulative effect of its wholesale removal of safeguards. These actions fall far short of what the APA requires and this court should affirm.”

Meanwhile, the government’s solicitor general and attorneys for the abortion drug manufacturer Danco questioned whether the respondents in the case had proper legal grounds to challenge the FDA’s policies because they offered no specific instances where they were forced to participate in abortions.

Several commentators observed that the question of legal standing seemed to resonate among several justices from both the conservative and liberal sides of court, though no justice said as much outright.

During oral arguments, Hawley sought to dispel such notions, stating that the FDA relies on “O.B. hospitalists to care for women harmed by abortion drugs. … The FDA concedes that between 2.9% and 4.6% of women [using the drug regimen] will end up in the emergency room. And … the FDA acknowledges that women are even more likely to need surgical intervention and other medical care without an in-person visit.”

Hawley added, “Ruling against respondents on standing here would allow federal agencies to conscript nonregulated parties into violating their consciences and suffering other harms without judicial recourse.”

When the FDA approved mifepristone in 2000, it was over objections from pro-life advocates and some physicians that the drug posed too many health risks. In 2016, the FDA under Obama expanded accessibility of mifepristone but also eliminated the requirement that health-care providers report non-fatal complications, or “adverse effects.” Because of this, pro-life groups have argued that such complications are under-reported.

At one point, Justice Samuel Alito seemed to question the wisdom of the FDA’s 2016 decision to stop requiring the reporting of non-fatal complications as he questioned the attorney for Danco.

“Why would [reporting] be a bad thing?” Alito asked. “Wouldn’t your company—you don’t want to sell a product that—that causes very serious harm to the people who take your product, relying on your tests and the FDA’s tests. Wouldn’t you want … that data?”

Another question in the case is whether delivery of abortion drugs by mail violates an 1873 law still on the books, the Comstock Act. That law forbade postal delivery of obscene materials, which included pornography but also substances that cause abortion. In 1971, Congress amended the act to allow the mailing of contraceptives.

In April 2023, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that the FDA approved the drug despite “legitimate safety concerns.” His ruling sought to suspend the FDA’s initial approval of mifepristone in 2002 and subsequent rulings relaxing rules on its use and availability.

In August, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, ruled that too much time had passed for the respondents to challenge the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, but it did uphold Kacsmaryk’s judgments on the FDA’s decisions in 2016 and 2021, ruling that the FDA must restore the safeguards around chemical abortion drugs and prohibit their shipment by mail to protect the health and safety of women.

The high court is expected to announced a ruling by late June or early July.

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a growing number of women who have taken mifepristone and immediately regretted it have successfully reversed the effects of mifepristone—before taking the second drug—and saved their babies. The so-called abortion pill reversal (APR) process involves using a progesterone protocol in the hours following ingestion of mifepristone.

According to a 2019 study that included scientists who were opposed to abortion pill reversals, “Among the patients who received progesterone, 80% were able to achieve an ongoing pregnancy,” the Charlotte Lozier Institute reported.

Heartbeat International, a pro-life group, operates what is called The Abortion Pill Rescue Network, which reports that it receives over 150 calls a month from women who regret their abortion decision.

For those claiming to “champion women’s rights,” the abortion industry has a long history of misrepresenting the scientific reality of life in the womb and the health risks to the mother associated with abortion.

Franklin Graham, commenting on the FDA’s decision to make the abortion pill available through the postal system, referred to the actions as “Murder by mail.”

Abortion supporters try to make it sound more acceptable and less barbaric by saying that it ‘terminates a pregnancy,’” Graham described. “But medication abortions, as they are called, are just another way to deliberately end the life of an unborn child—and that should be called what it is—murder.”

“Pray that the minds and hearts of people across our nation would be awakened to the great sin and heartbreak of abortion,” he implored. “And pray for our Supreme Court to make changes that will protect and value the most vulnerable among us.”

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