February 17, 2021

Shaheen & Hassan File Amicus Brief in Case Threatening Women’s Access to Reproductive Health Care During COVID-19

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a group of lawmakers in submitting an amicus brief in the case of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists v. United States Food and Drug Administration (ACOG v. FDA). The brief challenges the FDA’s in-person dispensing requirement for the abortion medication, mifepristone, during the COVID-19 public health emergency. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) led the amicus brief.

 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government has suspended similar in-person requirements for other, less safe medications. However, the Trump administration ignored repeated calls by leading medical and public health authorities to do the same for mifepristone, treating patients seeking abortion and miscarriage care differently and threatening American women’s access to reproductive health care during the public health emergency.

 

The amicus brief focuses on the importance of ensuring that science and medical evidence guide access to abortion medication and miscarriage care. It argues that the court should affirm the preliminary injunction granted by the District Court, which lifted the in-person Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (“REMS”) requirements for mifepristone for early abortion use during the global pandemic, and that the court should also reverse the District Court’s decision to decline to extend the preliminary injunction to patients seeking mifepristone for the treatment of early pregnancy loss.

 

“Lifting the in-person requirements for mifepristone is consistent with various FDA and HHS actions that encourage and promote the use of telemedicine in lieu of in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote in their brief. “Given that FDA does not require any medical counseling and eligibility assessments to be provided to the patient during in-person dispensing, there is no rational reason why patients who seek mifepristone to treat early miscarriages should not be afforded the same protections as those who need the drug for medication abortions.

 

The lawmakers continued, “Upholding mifepristone’s in-person REMS requirements during the COVID- 19 pandemic is at odds with public health guidance, statutory intent, and common sense—it is medically unnecessary, burdens patient access to mifepristone, and imposes irreparable harm to miscarriage and medication abortion patients and their medical providers. [The lawmakers] respectfully ask the Court to affirm the District Court’s decision granting a nationwide preliminary injunction on Plaintiffs-Appellees’ due process claim, and to reverse the District Court’s ruling on Plaintiffs-Appellees’ equal protection claim to reinstate urgently-needed relief for miscarriage and medication abortion patients and their medical providers during the pandemic.”

 

To read the full brief, click here.

 

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