Houston Representative Introduces Bill to Safeguard Abortion Drug Availability

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill aimed at protecting access to the abortion medication mifepristone. Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher’s Protecting Reproductive Freedom Act comes as access to mifepristone hangs in the balance, pending a Supreme Court ruling. A federal judge in Texas invalidated the FDA’s approval of the drug, which is used in more than half of abortions in the US, and also ruled that the mailing of the medication could breach a 150-year-old law. While the US Justice Department has sought relief from the Supreme Court, last week Justice Samuel Alito issued an administrative stay on mifepristone access.
Speaking on Inside Texas Politics, Fletcher said the move to invalidate mifepristone was part of a wider effort to remove women’s autonomy over their decisions. “We’re talking about a safe and effective medication. So, really what this is is about making it more difficult for women to access the healthcare that they need. And don’t forget, this is an important medication for women who are having miscarriages,” she said. 

Fletcher’s bill would not only reaffirm the FDA’s decision to approve the use of mifepristone, but would also preempt any state laws that aimed to prohibit or restrict access to the medication. The bill follows a federal judge’s ruling that invalidated the FDA’s approval of drug. His decision rendered access to the medication, which is used in more than half of all abortions in the US, critically threatened. The judge also argued that shipping the medication violated the Comstock Act, a law dating back 150 years, which bans mailings containing drugs or medication intended to cause an abortion.

While some relief for supporters of reproductive freedom came through the Justice Department’s request for urgent intervention from the Supreme Court, in a recent development. However, the current uncertainties around access to the medication mean the urgency around Fletcher’s proposed legislation remains high.

“Even though the 5th Circuit stay provides some immediate relief, it really reinforces some dubious legal arguments, it undermines drug approval at the FDA which creates chaos across the board, and of course, it limits access to mifepristone to the Americans who need it,” said Fletcher. Her bill would ensure that the FDA retains its authority to approve the medication’s use and ensures that access to mifepristone is available without restriction throughout the country.

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