Aron Solomon Opinion: Fate of Abortion Pills in Media Spotlight

Mifepristone, a medication that is used to terminate early pregnancies, is all over our news cycles as a federal court judge in Texas heard arguments last week about whether it should be sold in the United States.

The lawsuit was filed by an anti-abortion group in Texas based on an argument that mifepristone’s safety was never adequately or properly studied. Yet looking at the history of the drug makes this a difficult argument.

The drug was first developed in the 1980s by a French pharmaceutical company, Roussel-Uclaf. The drug is also known as RU-486 and works by blocking the action of progesterone, which is a hormone that is needed for the growth of the uterine lining and the development of the fetus. Without progesterone, the uterus contracts, and the pregnancy cannot continue.

In 1988, mifepristone was approved for use in France. However, its approval was met with controversy, and the French government initially refused to allow the drug to be sold in the country. The controversy was due to the fact that the drug was seen as a threat to traditional values and the belief that it could lead to increased promiscuity and moral decay.

Despite the controversy, mifepristone quickly gained popularity in France and other countries as an alternative to surgical abortion. In 1990, the patent for mifepristone was donated to the Population Council, a non-profit organization in the United States. The Population Council licensed the drug to a US company, Danco Laboratories, which began marketing it under the brand name Mifeprex.

In 2000, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of mifepristone for medical abortions, making it the first medication available in the United States for non-surgical abortion. The approval of mifepristone was also met with controversy in the US, and the drug remains heavily regulated.

One of the major controversies surrounding the use of mifepristone is the political and ideological debate about abortion. Those who are opposed to abortion believe that mifepristone is an immoral drug that promotes the culture of death and the devaluation of human life. They argue that the drug is used to end the lives of unborn children and that it should not be allowed.

On the other hand, those who support a woman’s right to choose believe that mifepristone is an important tool in reproductive healthcare. They argue that the drug provides women with a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion, and that it allows women to have more control over their reproductive health.

Another controversy surrounding the use of mifepristone is the safety and effectiveness of the drug. While mifepristone is considered safe and effective, there have been some cases of serious complications, including severe bleeding and infection. These risks are rare, but they do exist, and opponents of the drug argue that it is not worth the risk.

Despite the controversies surrounding the use of mifepristone, it remains an important medication in reproductive healthcare. It is used by millions of women around the world to end early pregnancies and is considered a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion.

As Florida lawyer, Adriana Gonzalez, observed,“The obvious danger here is a ban on a well-tested drug for political purposes. Drugs such as mifepristone don’t exist in isolation, their use becomes a legal and political issue, often at the expense of the people they were created to help.”

This is where we find ourselves today. While the Texas court heard their case only last week, the state is already hard at work with new tactics to restrict access to abortion pills.

As the MIT Technology Review wrote this week, in an attempt to restrict access to abortion pills, Texas is targeting internet service providers and credit card processing companies.

As a result of the post-Roe era, the internet has become a crucial source of information and a means of obtaining pills to terminate pregnancy, particularly in states where physical access is restricted. Texas has a history of using anti-abortion political strategies as evinced by last week’s case seeking to revoke the FDA approval of mifepristone, which would absolutely have implications far beyond Texas.

To limit access to abortion pills, Texas Republicans have introduced two bills. The first, HB 2690, would require internet service providers such as AT&T and Spectrum to block websites providing access to abortion pills or information on obtaining them.

The bill would also prohibit the sharing of such information by both publishers and individuals. The second bill, SB 1440, would make it a felony for credit card companies to process transactions related to abortion pills and expose them to potential lawsuits from the public.

Whatever the battleground, what’s clear is that a woman’s ability to acquire abortion pills is going to be a target of legislators and legislatures for the foreseeable future, as will the involvement of our courts.

A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor-in-Chief for Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal,, The Boston Globe, YouTube, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.

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