Maryland Move to Safeguard Mifepristone Comes after Texas Federal Judge’s Misguided Order

a pink background with mifepristone pills

Mifepristone, the generic version of Mifeprex

Sophia Steen, Staff Writer

Content warning: this article discusses pregnancy loss and specific medical procedures. 

Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced Sunday that the state will be stockpiling the drug Mifepristone in order to safeguard abortion access and reproductive healthcare. The decision comes after a Federal judge in Texas ordered the FDA to stop approving of the drug, stating that the FDA rushed through the process of approving it in 2000.

What is Mifepristone? 

Mifepristone and misoprostol are used together to end an early pregnancy. When someone is pregnant, their body produces a hormone called progesterone. This hormone helps a fertilized egg implant and grow in the uterus. When taken together, Mifepristone and misoprostol block progesterone, ending the pregnancy. When this occurs, the uterus contracts and expels the pregnancy. 

According to the FDA, these medications are also used for patients that have already miscarried. When someone has a miscarriage, there is leftover pregnancy tissue in the uterus. Some people who experience a miscarriage can choose to let the tissue pass on its own, but for others, it becomes a medical emergency. It is a very unpredictable process and can take a few weeks. Leaving dead tissue in your body for too long can lead to infections. This is where Mifepristone and misoprostol come into play. People can take this combination of medication to force the uterus to contract, which expels the leftover pregnancy tissue. The process normally takes about 2 days because the pills are taken 2 days apart, but it normally only takes 2-4 hours for the tissue to pass through the body. Using medication for post-miscarriage treatment is more predictable and takes less time, which may be preferred by some people experiencing this very traumatic event. 

Mifepristone is also used to treat Cushing’s syndrome and uterine leiomyomas, neither of which have to do with abortions.  

There is no precedent for a single judge to overturn the actions of the food and drug administration. According to the FDA themselves, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.” Nowhere in that statement does it say they are a political pawn to be used in a national debate about abortion. If we start letting the judicial branch of government have a say in the medications we choose to take, we risk our health to people who know nothing about healthcare or the specific situations that might call for various drugs. Doctors spend years in medical school and practicing during internships and residency so that they can make complicated and difficult decisions to ensure patient health and safety. Wide sweeping rulings about drugs undermine their professional judgment. 

If this drug is blocked, people who miscarry are going to have to naturally pass the pregnancy tissue leftover in their body, which can be not only a very dangerous thing for their health, but a very traumatic and painful process. People who miscarry can go see an OBGYN to have the leftover pregnancy tissue removed with a special tool that sucks the tissue out of the uterus, however this tool is used in abortions, and of course, has been banned in some states.  

Having a court interfere in an FDA process is incredibly dangerous for the development of medicine. If SCOTUS upholds the judge’s ruling, they open a can of worms that says any medicine is subject to objections from the courts simply because of the political environment. That creates a slippery slope for the practice of medicine as well as the health of citizens. We should expect to see birth control and emergency contraception next on the courts list of reproductive attacks. Maternal mortality rates are already high in the US compared to other nations. Because of this new ruling, more people are going to die because opponents of abortion do not understand anatomy, science, or medicine. 

Governor Moore has pledged that “Maryland is going to lead on this” while discussing abortion rights. Maryland has to get ahead of the next inevitable legal battle on reproductive healthcare. In November, Marylanders have the opportunity to vote to protect abortion in the state constitution. For Marylanders and anyone seeking a safe medical procedure in surrounding states, this matter is literally life or death.