BOSTON — A growing number of states led by Democratic governors are stockpiling doses of drugs used in medication abortions, amid fears that a court ruling could restrict access to the most commonly used method of abortion in the U.S.
Massachusetts has purchased enough doses of the drug mifepristone – one of two drugs used in combination to end pregnancies – to last for more than a year, Democratic Gov. Maura Healey said Monday. California has secured an emergency stockpile of up to 2 million pills of misoprostol, the other drug used in abortion medication, Gov. Newsom, also a Democrat, announced.
And in Washington state, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that the state purchased 30,000 doses of the generic version of mifepristone – which he said is enough to last the state’s residents three years. The shipment arrived in late March.
“Abortion is still legal and accessible here in California and we won’t stand by as fundamental freedoms are stripped away,” Newsom said Friday.
The actions come as U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Amarillo, Texas, overruled decades of scientific approval Friday and put on hold federal approval of mifepristone.
The judge stayed his ruling for a week so federal authorities could file a challenge.
The Biden administration slammed the ruling and on Monday appealed the decision, saying it would thwart the U.S. Food and Drug administration’s scientific judgment and “severely harm women, particularly those for whom mifepristone is a medical or practical necessity.”
Adding to the confusion was a second opinion also released on Friday by District Judge Thomas O. Rice, an Obama appointee, directing U.S. authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the drug in at least 17 states where Democrats sued in an effort to protect availability.
Healey said the Kacsmaryk ruling threatens access to the medication even in states supportive of abortion rights like Massachusetts.
“It harms patients, undermines medical expertise, and takes away freedom. It’s an attempt to punish, to shame, to marginalize women. It’s unnecessary,” Healey said, surrounded by fellow Democratic lawmakers including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse.
“It is terrible. It is terrible,” she added.
Newsom said the ruling by Kacsmaryk “ignores facts, science, and the law,” and puts the health of millions of women and girls at risk.
Inslee said it’s important for states to take steps to ensure access to the drug.
“After we announced our actions last week to protect access to mifepristone, it’s heartening to see other states doing the same,” Inslee wrote on Twitter on Monday. “To be clear: no matter the outcome of the TX case, WA’s laws ensure we will be able to sell and distribute this medication.”
The 15,000 doses in Massachusetts were purchased by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst at Healey’s request.
Massachusetts health care providers have also agreed to buy additional quantities of mifepristone, according to Healey, who said the administration is dedicating $1 million to help providers contracted with the Department of Public Health to pay for the doses.
While there are no plans yet in Connecticut to stockpile mifepristone, Attorney General William Tong said Monday that he has been contacting major pharmacy chains to remind them the drug is legal and they should not be influenced by pressure from GOP attorneys general in other states.
”(I’m) obviously deeply disappointed that my colleagues have taken that action,” he said. “We’re pushing back on that. We’re in communication with all the big pharmacy chains, advising them of their rights and obligations here in Connecticut.”
Also on Friday, Healey signed an executive order expanding a 2022 law meant to build a legal firewall around abortion services – protecting health care providers, patients and pharmacists from out-of-state investigations into medication abortions. The law was signed after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
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