By Elisha Brown
Welcome back to Reproductive Rights Today, States Newsroom’s daily recap of one of the most pressing issues of our time in a post-Roe United States. I’m Elisha Brown, the newsletter’s new author and part of the expanded coverage of state lawmakers’ latest efforts to further restrict – or expand – abortion access and reproductive health care.
Along with updates from our national network of nonprofit newsrooms – 32 states so far – and eight media partners across the country, States Newsroom’s new national reproductive rights team – me, Kelcie Moseley-Morris and Sofia Resnick – will provide original reporting that will appear in this newsletter regularly. I’ll tell you more about our trio later. For now, here’s the latest:
Junk science and false claims behind abortion-pill lawsuit
All eyes are on a legal battle over medication abortion brewing in Texas. Sofia recently broke down the claims at the center of Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. the Food and Drug Administration, a federal lawsuit filed in Texas last year by a conservative group on behalf of several anti-abortion doctors and advocates urging the FDA to undo approval of mifepristone, the first pill used in a medication abortion. Their claims include the drug is dangerous; taking abortion pills is riskier than giving birth; and emergency rooms are overrun with medication abortion patients.
Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, a conservative judge appointed by President Donald Trump, will rule on the case that could result in protracted litigation. The doctors behind the suit practice in Indiana, Michigan, and Texas, but one plaintiff, a California physician, is not even an OB-GYN. Dr. George Delgado is also behind the non-peer-reviewed study that claimed, without sufficient evidence, that taking the hormone progesterone after mifepristone could “reverse” an abortion.
Attorneys for the federal government contend medication abortion is safe. Less than 30 deaths have been linked to mifepristone in the more than two decades since the FDA approved the drug, and medication abortions – mifepristone followed by misoprostol, a drug used to treat ulcers and miscarriages – are the most common form of abortion care. If Kacsmaryk rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the case would head to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a conservative bench, and could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Attorneys general join medication abortion fight
Nearly two dozen attorneys general from Democratic-led states filed a brief this week in defense of mifepristone. New York Attorney General Letitia James filed the brief on behalf of her state and attorneys general in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
The brief rebuked the claims in the federal lawsuit and pointed to evidence that mifepristone is safe and effective, while also noting that surgical abortions are riskier and more expensive than taking abortion pills. Last week, 23 Republican attorneys general filed their own arguments. Missouri filed its own brief Friday, while Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch – a key force behind Dobbs’ case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning of Roe – filed a brief representing her state and Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
They argued that the FDA’s decades-long approval of mifepristone is “unlawful.” The GOP attorneys general also wrote that sending abortion pills through the mail is unlawful. That claim, pulled from an interpretation of the Comstock Act, is false: In December, the DOJ clarified that abortion pills can be mailed anywhere in the country, regardless of state laws. Even though 12 states have abortion bans, abortion medication – the actual pills – are not illegal.
Indiana AG under investigation after targeting abortion provider
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission is investigating the state attorney general for publicly chastising a doctor who provided an abortion for a 10-year-old child who was raped, the Indiana Capital Chronicle reported Monday. Last year, Attorney General Todd Rokita filed a complaint with the state Medical Licensing Board against Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an OB-GYN based in Indianapolis who provided an abortion to the child from Ohio. An attorney for Rokita requested to represent Indiana in a case he brought against Bernard on Feb. 2; the petition confirmed that Rokita is under investigation for his comments.
The news comes after the former dean of Indiana University School of Law called for an investigation last year into the false statements the attorney general made against the doctor. Bernard sued Rokita, who also filed a complaint against the doctor to Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board, alleging that she failed to report the abortion to state officials within the required time frame. (Her lawyers voluntarily dismissed that case late last year.) Records show that Bernard filed a document on July 2 confirming that the medication abortion was performed on June 30. On Tuesday, the medical licensing board hearing, originally set for later this month, was postponed to May.
“Women are the canaries in the coal mine of democracy. When a government stops recognizing women as fully human, with an inherent right to dignity and dominion over our own bodies, you can bet other groups are being dehumanized too.” – Allison Gorman, writer in Chattanooga, Tennessee and former Democratic state congressional candidate, Tennessee Lookout
- Reproductive health clinics in Alabama are struggling to keep their doors open. (Alabama Reflector.)
Lawmakers in Iowa introduced a bill that would make assaulting pregnant people a felony. (Iowa Capital Dispatch.)
The Arkansas House passed a bill that would require employers who pay for out-of-state abortions to also provide paid maternity leave. (Arkansas Advocate.)
By Kelcie: ER doctors don’t need protection when performing abortions, the Idaho Attorney General’s office argued. (Idaho Capital Journal.)
A Virginia proposal that would protect menstrual data from being collected through search warrants may falter. (Virginia Mercury.)
ICYMI: The attorney general of Guam wants to reinstate the territory's 30-year-old abortion ban, which would criminalize abortion seekers. (The Guam Daily Post.)
Meet the States Newsroom reproductive rights team
First up, more about me: I’m a reporter covering reproductive rights with a focus on the Southeast. Born and raised in South Carolina, I’m now based in Durham, North Carolina, where I previously worked at Facing South. Before that, I was a news assistant at The New York Times. My work has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Atlantic and Vox.
Reproductive rights reporter Kelcie Moseley-Morris joins our national team from Idaho Capital Sun. The award-winning journalist has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Kelcie started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press.
Reproductive Rights Today’s previous author, Sofia Resnick, is now a national reproductive rights reporter. Based in Washington, D.C., the investigative journalist has covered reproductive health for more than a decade, previously for Rewire News and The American Independent, and most recently as a freelance reporter and editor. The Texas native’s work has appeared in The Daily Beast, New York Magazine and Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
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