". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


‘Thousands of Women in Emergency Rooms’: FRC Files Brief Asking SCOTUS to Regulate Abortion Drug

March 5, 2024

As major pharmacy chains are set to start selling the abortion drug mifepristone, pro-lifers are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to limit access to the dangerous drug. Walgreens and CVS announced on Friday that they would begin selling mifepristone in their retail stores, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments in “U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine,” scheduled for oral arguments later this month and centered on whether or not the FDA’s 2016 and 2021 rule changes surrounding mifepristone’s availability were in violation of federal statute. Last week, Family Research Council and Dr. Martha Shuping filed an amici curiae brief in support of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, highlighting the danger mifepristone poses to pregnant mothers.

Chris Gacek, senior fellow for Regulatory Affairs at FRC, played a key role in drafting the organization’s brief. He joined FRC President Tony Perkins on Monday’s episode of “Washington Watch” to discuss the brief’s arguments against unrestricted mifepristone availability. “I think the goal is to basically get it to the point where it’s essentially dispensed in a pharmacy without any supervision,” Gacek said, referring to the challenged FDA rule changes under both the Obama and Biden administrations. “So Walgreens and CVS are probably going to be giving it out in their clinics. And you go and you meet someone there and you have to sign some forms, but the main thing … was that they removed the presence of physicians in the process altogether.”

Gacek noted that another rule change meant that people who were prescribed the abortion pill were not required to take the drug in the presence of the prescriber, explaining, “And that sort of allowed, it seems to us, the possibility that people could take the pills for other people or use the things in other ways.” He added that the “main thing” was that the FDA “also stopped requiring non-fatal adverse event reporting. So if you had a really bad reaction, but you didn’t die, you didn’t have to report it — which is, you know, the FDA just like covering its own tracks in this thing.”

“I think part of our argument in our brief is that this allows Big Pharma, if you will, to cash in those that are pushing the abortion pill and leaves everyone else to pick up the pieces,” Perkins commented. “Because it’s estimated we’ll see thousands of women that will end up in emergency rooms, being treated for the adverse consequences of this abortion pill. … CVS, Walgreens, and others who will be pushing these pills, they’ll get off scot-free.”

FRC’s brief itself centered on the dangers posed to pregnant mothers by the FDA’s rule changes. “Because of the FDA’s changes, it became possible for women to obtain abortion pills by mail without any in-person office visit with a medical professional — before, during or after the abortion. The only required contact under the relaxed regulations is

an initial encounter with telemedicine, without any physical examination,” the brief states. “As detailed below,

about 20,000 women annually are expected to visit emergency rooms due to complications from mifepristone abortions. As mifepristone abortions garner greater market share, this number will likely increase.”

The brief also argues that emergency room doctors, such as members of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, are being “compelled” to clean up the mess left by “mifepristone’s risks and costs — monetary, emotional, and spiritual” and are further “being injured by an abortion protocol in which their unwitting participation is a feature not a bug of making drug-induced abortion widely available to American society.”

Gacek explained that “the doctors who are suing here are basically emergency room doctors who were the unwitting recipients of these patients” who had to go to the emergency room after using mifepristone. An estimated 4% of women who take mifepristone end up in the ER.

The FRC brief states, “The [FDA’s] 2016 and 2021 approvals have systematically reduced the required in-person patient contact for mifepristone patients. FDA’s new telemed regime will leave many of the roughly one in 25 women seeking emergency room care without help.” Gacek explained, “So what’s going to happen to those people once you take the doctors out of the equation who don’t have admitting privileges? That means you’re basically doing ER dumping.” The brief continues:

“In fact, mifepristone patients presenting in emergency rooms is a feature not a bug of this protocol. Consequently, ‘downstream doctors,’ as we call them are an essential, if unwitting, part of the pharma abortion apparatus. … Reliance on emergency room treatment always had to be made an integral feature of the mifepristone regimen because FDA adamantly refused to require physicians performing mifepristone abortions to have admitting privileges at local hospitals where they could oversee the care of their patients.”

Another aspect addressed in the brief is, in Perkins’s words, where “intimate partner violence intersects with provisions of abortion and the abortion pill…” The brief itself argues, “Intimate partner violence often leads to coerced abortions of wanted children, causing psychological distress to mothers.” With the absence of regulations and safeguards surrounding the prescription of mifepristone, FRC warns, it is easier for abusive partners to obtain and administer mifepristone to cause an abortion, even against the pregnant mother’s will. “Very often,” the brief states, “reproductive coercion takes the form of coercing or forcing an abortion, leading to the abortion of wanted children — children who are desired by their mothers.”

“[T]his will cover up violence that may be taking place between men and women — a woman that finds herself pregnant could be being abused — that one connection with the doctor could be the unveiling of that abuse,” Perkins noted. Gacek added that the FDA’s 2021 rule change allowing prescription via telemedicine also allowed sex traffickers to exploit the system. “The traffickers, all sorts of people can go and get these,” he said. “And women who are under very coercive circumstances won’t even have to go into a facility to get these things.”

It keeps these women “trapped in these oppressive, abusive relationships.” Perkins warned. “You want [these victims to have] contact with the doctors,” Gacek insisted, so they can confide in them about their situation. “For them, that could be [the only way] out.” 

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.