‘Abortion pill’ case signals alarming moment for American women

February 20, 2023 7:11 am

A conservative judge in Texas overseeing a challenge to the FDA’s approval of mifepristone could issue a ruling that impacts all American women.

I spent six months of 2021 wondering if my gynecological symptoms were signs of cancer.

Two excruciating, invasive biopsies in my ob-gyn’s office resulted in the snipped tissue samples not being enough to examine properly. That meant I had to have an outpatient procedure in a hospital, and part of the preparation the night before was taking misoprostol, also known as an “abortion pill.”

I was 59 years old, so this had nothing to do with reproduction. The drug loosens the uterine lining and makes it easier for the doctor to obtain a proper sample.

This unpleasant experience has come rushing back as I follow the news from Texas, where one conservative judge overseeing a challenge to the FDA’s approval of mifepristone could issue a ruling that impacts all American women.

Mifepristone and misoprostol are two drugs prescribed when a woman has what is called a medication abortion. They work in tandem. The Texas case involves the former, which can currently be mailed from pharmacies to women in any state, even those that have new abortion bans.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that supports abortion rights, “By 2020, medication abortion accounted for more than half of all abortions obtained in the United States, up from 39% in 2017.”

I bring up my situation — not as common a use for abortion pills as terminating pregnancies — as an example of how ill-conceived and overreaching the anti-abortion movement is in its zeal to force its will on women of childbearing age. For anyone who is paying attention and gets their news from sources other than, say, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, there have been plenty of cautionary tales on taking an already unpopular Supreme Court decision (Dobbs vJackson Women’s Health Organization) to another level of extreme.

Among First Lady Jill Biden’s guests at this year’s State of the Union address were Amanda and Josh Zurawski, a Texas couple who shared their harrowing miscarriage story that was a result of extreme laws in their state.

Amanda was 18 weeks pregnant when she found out her daughter would be stillborn or die soon after birth, but she couldn’t terminate her pregnancy until the baby’s heartbeat stopped. Meanwhile, she risked getting an infection that could endanger her own life.

“It was a waiting game, the most horrific version of a staring contest: Whose life would end first? Mine, or my daughter’s?” she wrote in The Meteor.

During the leadup to the November 2022 midterm elections, knowing these kinds of issues were happening in states that put abortion bans in place after Roe v. Wade was overturned, I thought of two cousins who are of childbearing age. One lives in Pennsylvania, the other in New York. I am not privy to their private decisions on family planning, but I knew that both were one Republican governor away from having their choices watered down, if not completely taken away.

What comes to mind in this swirl of surrealness is a point made by then-Sen. Kamala Harris during Brett Kavanaugh’s U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing: “Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?”

Kavanaugh was rightly stumped. Men don’t have to play this health care chess game. Let’s say either of my cousins had pregnancy complications resulting in miscarriage. What if they had been in Amanda Zurawski’s situation, where a GOP-controlled state narrowed their choices? At least having proximity to New Jersey would have expanded their options — until, say, our governor’s mansion goes back to a pro-life Republican who does their best to undo what Gov. Murphy has done in signing the Freedom of Reproductive Choice Act.

How maddening, being reduced to having your abortion pill mailed to you and then having that option yanked away because one judge can override the FDA. If the 2022 election is any indication, this will not go well for culture war-obsessed Republicans in future elections.

I am in favor of safe and legal abortion. However, even if you are adamantly against abortion, there’s a good chance you are supporting candidates who are going to make it more difficult to be treated when you have a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or want a proper non-reproductive diagnosis (like my blessedly clean biopsy).

Sometimes it’s hard to see the need for alarm bells when the oppressors are chipping away at rights under the guise of freedom. I am heartened that the Florida High School Athletic Association just axed questions about student athletes’ menstruation cycles after receiving a flood of complaints that they were invasive.

Aggressive pushback can only come from expanded awareness that there is a dire problem in the first place. The question is, how many women will have to pay a steep price in the meantime under this bit of minority rule?


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Nancy Colasurdo
Nancy Colasurdo

Nancy Colasurdo is an award-winning journalist, author, and professional coach. A former Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan, she has won writing awards from the Women’s Sports Foundation and the NJSIAA. In 2019 she was selected to be part of 50 Women Who Can Change the World of Journalism through the nonprofit Take the Lead.