Boxes of mifepristone, a drug used to induce medical abortions, are prepared for patients at a Planned Parenthood health center on March 14, 2022 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Evelyn Hochstein | reuters
A federal judge on Friday allowed North Carolina lawmakers to defend restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone after the state’s attorney general declined to do so.
North Carolina physician Dr. Amy Bryant sued the state in January to stop its restrictions on mifepristone because they go beyond Food and Drug Administration regulations.
State Attorney General Joshua Stein, a Democrat, agreed with Bryant and declined to defend state restrictions on mifepristone. Stein told North Carolina lawmakers that the FDA has determined that restrictions like those in North Carolina increase patients’ access to a safe and effective drug.
Philip Berger, President of the Senate of North Carolina, and Timothy Moore, Speaker of the State House, intervened to defend the state’s laws. North Carolina has split Gov. The state legislature has a Republican majority and Governor Roy Cooper is a Democrat.
The judge ordered that lawmakers have until March 24 to respond to Bryant’s lawsuit.
Berger and Moore argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade gave states the power to regulate abortion. He said that blocking North Carolina’s ban on mifepristone would undermine the power of the state legislature.
The abortion pill has become a central flashpoint in the fight over abortion access since the Supreme Court overturned Roe. The North Carolina case is one of several legal battles testing whether FDA regulations or state law should govern the administration of mifepristone.
The FDA significantly relaxed federal restrictions on mifepristone in January. The agency has permanently eliminated a requirement that patients obtain the drug in person from a certified provider.
The FDA also allowed retail pharmacies to dispense the pill, as long as they were certified under a federal monitoring program. Patients need a prescription from a certified health care provider to get a medical abortion.
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The FDA changes allow patients to receive prescriptions through a telehealth provider and have medication delivered by mail.
North Carolina’s laws are more restrictive than the FDA’s. The state requires patients to obtain mifepristone from a physician in a specially certified facility. The doctor has to be physically present when the patient takes mifepristone. After signing the consent form, women have to wait for 72 hours before the pill can be given by a doctor.
Mifepristone, used in combination with misoprostol, is the most common method of terminating pregnancy in the US, accounting for about half of all abortions.
Physicians opposing abortion in Texas have asked a federal judge to order FDA revokes its more than two decades old approvall abortion pill, GenBioPro, one of the pill makers, has sued West Virginia to overturn its abortion ban,
Democratic attorney general has told a federal judge in Washington state Declare the remaining FDA restrictions on mifepristone unconstitutional.