Shapiro, AG Henry throw legal support behind abortion drug mifepristone

30 January 2024- Governor Josh Shapiro filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court reaffirming his commitment to safeguarding abortion access and protecting a woman’s right to choose alongside 21 fellow Governors who are also members of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance. Governor Shapiro and Alliance members argued that if the Supreme Court allows a recent Fifth Circuit decision to stand, it will undermine Governors’ ability nationwide to support adequate healthcare services and would set a dangerous precedent beyond just reproductive healthcare.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry submitted a separate amicus brief today to the high court in support of unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare and medication, such as mifepristone, which has proven to be safe, affordable, and a vital option to maintain equitable care in rural and underserved areas.

The Justices are currently weighing a decision in Food and Drug Administration, et al., v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a case centered on access to the abortion medication known as mifepristone, which accounts for more than half of all abortions performed in the country.

“I believe in women’s freedom to choose – and as long as I’m Governor, I will always defend freedom in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “Mifepristone is a safe, effective medication that has been widely used for decades.  Allowing a few extremist judges to threaten that option for patients nationwide and put women’s health at risk would undermine Governors’ ability to support adequate healthcare services in our states. Let me be clear: your rights and freedoms here in Pennsylvania have not changed – you can still get a safe, legal medication abortion using mifepristone in our Commonwealth. As your Governor, I will never back down from this fight.”

In April 2023, a judge in the Northern District of Texas reversed the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of an abortion pill regimen consisting of mifepristone followed by misoprostol, which has been used for more than 20 years and today is used for more than 55 percent of abortions in Pennsylvania. Medication abortions often use this two-step process, and the medications can be obtained at abortion clinics, pharmacies, or by mail. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit subsequently reversed the part of the decision revoking the FDA’s initial approval of mifepristone but upheld a number of other restrictions the District Court reimposed.

In a dueling opinion around the same time as the Texas decision, a federal judge in Washington state also ruled in a different case – which Pennsylvania was a party to – that mifepristone is safe and effective, and ordered the FDA to preserve “the status quo” and retain access to the drug in the 17 states and Washington D.C. that are behind the second lawsuit.

Just days after that Texas ruling, Governor Shapiro launched a new Abortion Access website where the public can find further information about medication abortions as well as in-clinic procedure abortions. Users can also take advantage of an interactive map and the “Find A Provider” tool to locate a local provider, seek assistance on their journey with help from the “Make A Plan” section, and get connected with financial support under “How to Pay.”

In February 2023, Governor Shapiro joined the Reproductive Freedom Alliance with 21 other governors to safeguard abortion access, protect abortion providers, and affirm abortion rights. The Governor maintained former-Governor Tom Wolf’s executive order ensuring that non-Pennsylvania residents seeking abortion care in Pennsylvania can do so without fear of being arrested or detained at the request of another state.