‘Safe and effective’: Pa. pols, doctors and activists react to SCOTUS hearing on abortion pill

A group of doctors challenged the FDA’s authority to approve mifepristone, an abortion drug. The case went to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments Tuesday.

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FILE - A patient prepares to take the first of two combination pills, mifepristone, for a medication abortion during a visit to a clinic in Kansas City, Kan., on, Oct. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

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Nearly two-thirds of U.S. abortions involve mifepristone, an FDA-approved drug to induce abortions that can be ordered by mail and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. However, a group of doctors challenged the FDA’s authority to approve its use, claiming conscientious objections. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments Tuesday.

State Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, who previously served as director for policy for Planned Parenthood, said she was pleasantly surprised that most of the court — including conservative justices appointed by Donald Trump — appeared skeptical of the arguments against the pill.

“I was surprised that the arguments were so weak,” she told WHYY. “If somebody comes to your emergency room, like the doctors who filed the case claiming conscientious objections, they should be able to either take care of the patient or find somebody who will.”

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She said that a ruling against the FDA and the pill could have a “devastating impact on reproductive health” around the country, including in Pennsylvania.

Pro-life activists said they still hope the court will make the “right decision.”

“The abortion pill takes the life of an innocent human being and can cause serious harm to a woman,” Maria Gallagher, acting executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, told WHYY. “Research indicates that mifepristone has four times the complication rate of a surgical abortion.”

However, that assertion was challenged by Dr. Karen Feisullin, an OBGYN who practices in Montgomery County.

“It’s been studied for decades to prove its efficacy and safety,” she told WHYY, adding that the drug is not just for abortions but also miscarriage management, “for which we use quite frequently when patients prefer not to have a surgical procedure performed. They can do this in their own homes.”

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The Biden campaign has made reproductive rights a central issue in the 2024 race as his rival, Donald Trump, has taken credit for the overturning of Roe v. Wade stemming from his appointments of three conservative justices during his term.

“And he promised to end all abortions if he was back in office,” Feisullin said. “So, we have that looming over us for the election later this year, and we can’t pretend that’s not going to happen because that’s what he said.”

Pennsylvania voters cite it as the fourth most important election topic, according to a recent poll. For many, like Cappelletti, it’s also personal. Cappelletti and her husband had been trying to conceive, but she suffered two miscarriages.

“I was prescribed mifepristone,” she told WHYY. “It is so incredibly important that I had access to that care and was able to go on and have a healthy pregnancy later. And that’s what this is about. The choice is to be able to do that, to be in our doctors’ offices, making those decisions without politicians.”

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