Supreme Court abortion pill debate hits close to home

Grace Sjöberg, a second-year, was prescribed the abortion pill mifepristone when she was 18. She said while it was a difficult decision, it was the right option for her.

“I would have been a mom at 19 and that’s crazy,” Sjöberg said. ”I had only been in one relationship. Nobody’s getting a termination because it’s easy or pleasant. It’s because it’s necessary.” 

Last week, the Supreme Court prohibited the lower courts from banning the drug. It will continue to be available nationwide while the case winds its way through the courts. California and 16 other states have been included in an order asking the Food and Drug Administration to affirm their original decision.

But the threat of the lower court ruling still looms. 

Texan judge Matthew Kaczmarek suspended approval of the abortion pill on April 8, following the filing of a preliminary injunction that could reverse FDA approval of mifepristone (which goes under the brand name Mifeprex), a commonly used drug that can end a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks. The drug has been approved for over 20 years and according to the court order, plaintiff petitions have been challenging the approval since 2002.

Kaczmarek’s ruling claims the drug is unsafe and contradicts evidence from the FDA. The judge wrote that the FDA succumbed to political pressure when approving the drug.

Greer Donley, an expert of FDA law from the University of Pittsburgh, criticized the judge who has no scientific or medical background for attempting to overrule the agency that has a “ton of scientific expertise,”  she told the Texas Tribune.  

Sjöberg feels abortion care should be accessible because “without it, half the population is in an almost second class state. When you no longer have control over your reproductive system, it can be life changing.”

She pointed out that abortions can happen in cases when the unborn child perishes so that the mother isn’t forced to give birth to a stillborn baby. “For a lot of people, the idea of carrying a pregnancy all the way to term only for that baby to die is incredibly traumatic.” Abortion rights impact not only people who want to terminate a pregnancy, but anyone who can become pregnant. 

Sjöberg would tell someone that is going through this process that this decision doesn’t have to define them. “There’s a lot of people who have abortions for life saving reasons or personal reasons. Trust yourself, and surround yourself with people who support you and love you. Choosing not to have a child at this moment doesn’t mean that you can’t have one later on if that’s what you want.”

How does mifepristone work? 

Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid that blocks the hormone progesterone, which establishes and maintains a pregnancy. According to FDA periodic reviews, Mifeprex and its approved generic mifepristone have not been identified with any new safety concerns with the use of mifepristone for medical termination of pregnancy through 70 days gestation. Treatment causes heavy bleeding and cramping similar to a period while emptying the uterus, and the sooner a patient takes the pill, the more likely it is to be effective. In certain situations, mifepristone can be an alternative to a D&C procedure, in which a health care professional will dilate the uterus and scrape tissues inside with an instrument called a curette. D&C procedures are more painful, and there is a bigger risk of complications compared to mifepristone. 

Local resources

While the California State Univeristy, Monterey BayHealth Center does not offer immediate access to emergency contraception or abortion care, they can refer patients to get prescriptions through MyChart free of cost. However, once the medication is prescribed, the costs must be paid out of pocket or by insurance. 

Planned Parenthood provides emergency contraceptives without a prescription at a low cost. They also offer Mifeprex, which can be obtained after speaking with one of their doctors. The nearest Planned Parenthood centers are in Seaside and Salinas. 

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