If the abortion pill is banned in the US, Canada could see profound, troubling repercussions
A major legal decision is expected to be announced in Texas on Friday that could further affect access to abortion for millions of Americans.
A federal district judge is scheduled to rule on a lawsuit filed in November by a coalition of anti-choice medics registered as a non-profit organization under the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.
The lawsuit challenges the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone, known as the “abortion pill,” in 2000. She states that the FDA has overstepped its role, which could result in an outright ban on the drug’s use if the judge holds that position. Many expect Trump-appointed US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to rule in favor of the lawsuit. He had previously worked at a conservative Christian rights group.
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A decision in favor of the lawsuit would effectively ban abortion pills in the US and even make them illegal for use by healthcare professionals. While this would no doubt have an impact on many people who are able to conceive in the US, it could also have an impact on Canadians.
Frederique Chabot is director of health promotion at Action Canada, a freedom of choice charity. She says they closely follow anti-choice organizations in the US because their tactics effectively restrict access to abortion there, even though it’s an unpopular position.
“They use legal and democratic decisions to do this successfully,” she says Yahoo News Canada. “Any kind of backsliding in reproductive rights has a global impact in the sense that we see human rights being eroded.”
She says the lawsuit’s practical implications could be to cast doubt on the safety profile of mifepristone, which has been used in 60 countries for over 30 years.
The crux of their argument is that the FDA went too far in not taking proper care to ensure this was a safe drug for people using it, and that’s ridiculous. This is not supported by evidence. In the US alone, mifepristone has been used for over 20 years, millions of doses have been administered, there is much documented evidence of real world use.Frederique Chabot, director of health promotion at Action Canada
She fears that if a US court case shows that the FDA should not have approved the drug, it will be revoked on the grounds that it is unsafe. People unaware of the context or goals of these organizations can be fueled by disinformation about abortion and the safety of these drugs.
“They cast doubt and that can inspire lawmakers in other countries, including Canada,” says Chabot. “It can make people afraid of the drug. This is a powerful weapon of the anti-choice organizations that do this.”
Mifepristone was approved in Canada in 2015. It has been on the market since 2017 and is a widely used abortion method nationwide. Chabot says over 55 percent of abortions in the US are performed with mifepristone, and it’s especially important for people who can’t travel to the clinic, as it’s often distributed through the mail.
“In a place with geographic barriers, where people have to travel to a clinic and are unable, financially or otherwise, to do so, medical abortion allows abortion,” she says.
Chabot emphasizes that abortion is a common medical procedure and that one in three people in Canada who can become pregnant will have an abortion in their lifetime.
“It’s common, it’s not out of the norm, it’s very safe,” she says. “It’s much safer than childbirth. Mifepristone has an incredible safety profile worldwide. We see here how powerful disinformation can be about a perfectly normal medical procedure.”