The Biden Administration reacted to the Texas judge’s decision siding with anti-abortion extremists to remove approval for a key drug, mifepristone, used in most abortions that has been used safely by over 5 million women over the past 23 years, and declared it would challenge the decision in court. Meanwhile, another federal court found in favor of Democratic Attorney Generals that the drug must be made more readily available. The contradicting decisions means that the cases will likely go before the Supreme Court, which has already overturned Roe v Wade based on a legal reasoning that states, not the federal government, should determine whether women have reproductive rights.—Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Statement from President Joe Biden on Decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA
Today a single federal district judge in Texas ruled that a prescription medication that has been available for more than 22 years, approved by the FDA and used safely and effectively by millions of women here and around the world, should no longer be approved in the United States. The Court in this case has substituted its judgment for FDA, the expert agency that approves drugs. If this ruling were to stand, then there will be virtually no prescription, approved by the FDA, that would be safe from these kinds of political, ideological attacks.
The prescription medication in question in this case is used for medication abortion, and medication abortion accounts for over half the abortions in America. The lawsuit, and this ruling, is another unprecedented step in taking away basic freedoms from women and putting their health at risk. This does not just affect women in Texas – if it stands, it would prevent women in every state from accessing the medication, regardless of whether abortion is legal in a state. It is the next big step toward the national ban on abortion that Republican elected officials have vowed to make law in America.
My Administration will fight this ruling. The Department of Justice has already filed an appeal and will seek an immediate stay of the decision. But let’s be clear – the only way to stop those who are committed to taking away women’s rights and freedoms in every state is to elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring Roe versus Wade. Vice President Harris and I will continue to lead the fight to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, and to make her own decisions about her own health. That is our commitment.
Vice President Kamala Harris:
Today’s unprecedented decision threatens the rights of women nationwide to make decisions about their health care and the ability to access medication prescribed to them by their doctors. Simply put: this decision undermines the FDA’s ability to approve safe and effective medications—from chemotherapy drugs, to asthma medicine, to blood pressure pills, to insulin—based on science, not politics. This decision threatens the rights of Americans across the country, who can look in their medicine cabinets and find medication prescribed by a doctor because the FDA engaged in a process to determine the efficacy and safety of that medication.
At the same time as the court in Texas issued the decision to try to restrict access to FDA-approved medication, a court in Washington state reached a different conclusion.
Each person in our nation should have the right to access safe and effective medication which has been approved by the FDA. In the face of attacks on a woman’s right to access an abortion, our Administration will continue to fight to protect reproductive freedom and the ability of all Americans to make health care decisions with their doctors free from political interference.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland:
The Justice Department tonight issued the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland following the district court decisions in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA and Washington et al. v. FDA:
The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA and will be appealing the court’s decision and seeking a stay pending appeal. Today’s decision overturns the FDA’s expert judgment, rendered over two decades ago, that mifepristone is safe and effective. The Department will continue to defend the FDA’s decision.
Separately, the Justice Department is reviewing the decision of the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Washington et al. v. FDA.
The Department is committed to protecting Americans’ access to legal reproductive care.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra:
This is a regressive ruling issued by a single court in a single state that will have a disastrous impact on women and families across America if not overturned. Mifepristone was approved by the FDA as safe and effective to manage abortion decades ago and has been approved by drug regulators around the globe. Today’s decision jeopardizes the health of women across the country. It undermines our nation’s entire system of drug approval. It opens the door for courts to overturn FDA’s evidence-based decisions for purely political or ideological reasons.
Today’s ruling affects more than just access to abortion care. Some physicians use mifepristone for miscarriage management, which can be one of the most difficult times in a woman’s life.
We will vigorously fight this unprecedented decision in court. We have appealed the decision and will seek a stay. The Texas district court’s ruling does not take effect for seven days, so mifepristone remains approved and available for the time being while we pursue our appeal. Separately, another temporary order issued today in Washington State seeks to maintain access to mifepristone by directing the FDA not to take action to alter the status quo as it relates to the availability of mifepristone under the REMS in certain states. We are reviewing that decision.
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul came out hopping mad over the Texas abortion ban strategy and swinging at the Planned Parenthood Day of Action Rally in support of abortion access, making a sweeping invitation to any woman in a state where abortion access is obstructed, to come to New York, a sanctuary.
“We are here to show the rest of the nation that New Yorkers stand with every single one of you. Women across this nation, we have your back.”
She declared, “Right now, we have oppression going on in our own country when people are trying to tell women what to do with their own bodies. It stops here in New York. Let’s take this battle all across the nation. To Washington, to Texas, and anywhere else that they think they have a right to have their hands on our bodies.
“Keep your damn hands off our bodies.”
In addition, Governor Hochul announced an agenda to affirm abortion rights and cement New York’s status as a place to welcome women seeking abortion care.
Governor Hochul was joined by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to lay out their combined efforts to fight for reproductive rights. As part of these efforts, the Governor is directing State agencies to coordinate a statewide public information campaign, including the development of a patient bill of rights, in coordination with stakeholders. This campaign will help women know their rights and legal protections and ensure this information is accessible and widely available. The Governor also directed the Department of Health to take immediate action to develop and widely distribute modern and comprehensive provider guidance on the right to provide abortion care and to ensure updates to existing regulations are adopted so that medication abortion can be more easily accessed during telehealth visits.
“Abortion access is safe in New York – the rights of those who are seeking abortion services will always be protected here,” Governor Hochul said. “This plan will affirm that in our state, and leaders like Senator Gillibrand will fight on a national level. To the women of Texas, I want to say I am with you. Lady Liberty is here to welcome you with open arms.”
Recognizing that national attention on abortion issues may make misinformation more likely to spread, the Governor also wrote a letter to Facebook urging the company to provide information on any current efforts to mitigate the spread of abortion misinformation online and to take new action to combat misinformation about abortion laws, regulations, and availability.
Here is a highlighted transcript:
Are you all fired up? I am fired up. I love a good fight. But I’ll tell you, my friends, this is a fight that I thought ended when my mother was starting out as a parent, as a young person. I had no idea that all these years later we’d be fighting the same fight that grandma and my mom fought, that my own daughter now has her rights threatened by crazy people in places like Texas.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired, are we not? Have you heard that before? We don’t want to be fighting this anymore, but we are ready. We are here to show the rest of the nation that New Yorkers stand with every single one of you.
Women across this nation, we have your back. We will not abandon you just because we are far more enlightened in our respect for women’s bodies, and I have been a fighter on the forefront of this battle since 27 years ago when I ran for local office, running for a simple town board in a small town, and I was told in this very conservative community, if I didn’t take the “Right to Life” political line that I would never get elected in a million years. And I said, well watch this. I would not touch that line. I ran for office and I won overwhelmingly, time and time and time again.
And I say that because that is what’s going on in other parts of our nation and even in parts of our own state. And I’ll tell you one more story. I am so passionately engaged in making sure that every woman never has to find her way to a back alley, or to fight for simply having contraception access. I will join this battle and I will help lead the nation in this fight because when I was a member of congress, as member of congress I fought for the Affordable Care Act, because I thought health rights are human rights. It’s that simple. Everybody deserves the dignity of good healthcare and included in that was the right to contraceptive coverage by employers. They had to provide this, and I stood firm for that, and as a result that was an issue that I lost my seat in Congress on, and I would do it all over again because sometimes you just have to stand up and do what’s right and stand up for other people. And that’s what you’re doing here, standing in the rain in Brooklyn today. I am so proud of you, every one of you.
I want to thank our great borough president, Eric Adams, who is hosting us. Thank you, future Mayor Eric Adams. And to all of the elected officials who are here today. This is a battle that’s always happening in the streets. It’s happening at the Planned Parenthoods facilities that I’ve gone to after they’ve been subjected to attacks and terrorist actions.
We have to stand together and let people know that there is a reason why we feel we should be the sanctuary for people across this nation whose rights are attacked, whether it’s Texas or anywhere else because in 1886 they erected a beautiful woman in our harbor with her hand held high with torch in it, a beacon of hope for people who are oppressed.
And right now, we have oppression going on in our own country when people are trying to tell women what to do with their own bodies. It stops here in New York. Let’s take this battle all across the nation. To Washington, to Texas, and anywhere else that they think they have a right to have their hands on our bodies.
Keep your damn hands off our bodies. Keep your damn hands off our bodies. We are sick and tired. We are going to take this battle anywhere it occurs, and I want to thank all of you. You inspire me. You inspire me, each and every one of you when I come out here and I see your passion to fight for other people and make they have their dignity and rights. I want to thank you, Joy, and all our friends at Planned Parenthood for being there when we need you the most.
I am going to join this army, I’m going to help lead this army, whatever you need me to do, I will be there my friends. It’s all about showing up just like you showed up here on this beautiful day in Brooklyn. Thank you everybody.
Standing Up for Women’s Reproductive Rights
Senator Gillibrand said,”Having control over your own body and your own future is a basic human right. But that right is being threatened every day. The recent law in Texas – and the Supreme Court’s refusal to block it – is dangerous and disturbing. This law is not just unconscionable, it’s unconstitutional. At the federal level, we must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create federal protections against state restrictions that fail to protect women’s health and intrude upon personal decision-making. Here in New York, we luckily have a governor who understands and champions fundamental reproductive rights. I stand ready to support Governor Hochul’s efforts to ensure that providers, patients and the people of New York have the best information about abortion care and the resources to get the care they need.”
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney said, “The Supreme Court’s failure to block the draconian Texas anti-choice SB8 law flies in the face of decades of precedent and is a major blow to Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion. SB 8 makes it illegal to end a pregnancy under nearly all circumstances after 6 weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant. This devastating ruling by the highest court will most impact BIPOC and lower income individuals who often do not have the same access to health care or ability to travel out of state to access an abortion. The House has already voted to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and we must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. Here in New York, I’m so proud to have a governor like Kathy Hochul, who I know will work each and every day to protect New Yorkers’ reproductive rights.”
New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “In New York, we have shown that we are ready to protect women’s right to choose and access high quality reproductive healthcare,” “I want to thank Gov. Hochul and all the partners involved in this campaign, for amplifying the message that in New York, we will continue to be the standard bearers for women’s reproductive rights. With this campaign we are saying that in New York, women’s health matters, women’s decisions matter and the reproductive rights of ALL New Yorkers’ and visitors alike are protected.”
Senator Liz Krueger, Co-Chair of Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus said, “For many years before we passed the Reproductive Health Act in New York, we were told by opponents of choice that it was unnecessary, because the Supreme Court would never overturn Roe v. Wade. And yet here we are: just two years after passing the RHA, a Court packed with radical extremists has upheld Texas Republicans’ flagrantly unconstitutional forced-birth law. Opponents of reproductive freedom have made clear that their attacks on women will not let up, so neither can we. I thank Governor Hochul for taking a strong stand for the rights of women and families to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference.”
Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, “Texas’ draconian abortion ban is deeply disturbing, but not surprising. Despite a majority of Americans supporting a pregnant person’s right to choose, anti-choice extremists continue to try to undermine our constitutional right to seek reproductive health care, including abortions. I have worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen reproductive rights, and I am proud to have led the charge to codify Roe v Wade in New York State state law in the Reproductive Health Act for just this eventuality. Texas’ disgraceful law shows us why we must continue to fight to protect our right to choose.”
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, incoming Chair of the New York State Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues said, “We cannot allow oppressive, anti-woman bans on our bodies to penetrate our state or nation. The GOP-led stripping of women’s rights in Texas must be stopped. We need to protect women from the Court’s inaction, which could jeopardize our reproductive rights everywhere. I am grateful to the Governor, Kathy Hochul, and Sen. Gillibrand for taking a stand to make sure these archaic laws never undermine our health care in the state of New York.”
Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus said, “Make no mistake, Texas’s draconian new abortion law is an unconstitutional attack on the reproductive rights of women across our nation. Here in New York, we will always stand up for the right of women to make their own reproductive health choices, and under the leadership of Governor Hochul, I know that our state will continue to be a safe haven for women and their access to care in the face of this abhorrent assault on our fundamental rights to reproductive freedom.”
Assemblymember Karines Reyes, Co-Chair of Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus said, “The abortion ban recently enacted in Texas is completely reprehensible. A women’s right to an abortion is just that – a right – and in New York we will always do everything we can to protect a women’s right to choose. I thank Governor Hochul for taking aggressive actions to affirm abortion rights in New York and making sure that every woman in New York knows her rights.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said, “While other states are cracking down on reproductive rights with needless and extreme laws, here in New York State Governor Kathy Hochul is taking action to ensure that we remain a beacon of hope. All reproductive health, including abortion must be legal, safe, accessible, and affordable. That’s what today’s announcement by Governor Hochul aims to promote.”
Robin Chappelle Golston, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts said, “Make no mistake – there is a national effort to destroy access to abortion in this country and we must be just as aggressive to expand reproductive healthcare. This is our moment, to not just hold the line on access to abortion here in New York, but to boldly advance it. Everyone deserves the freedom to control their own body, make personal decisions and shape their own future. I want to thank Governor Hochul for her shared and unwavering commitment to this vision, and for the steps she is taking to ensure New York remains a beacon of freedom and access for all.”
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again: New York will open its doors to those in need of an abortion and stand up against any state that puts a bounty on reproductive freedom. In the face of Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional attacks on abortion access, we applaud Governor Hochul’s decisive action in partnering with experts and stakeholders to ensure New York is a haven state for all who need abortion care. We will not let Texas, or any other state that tries to follow suit, turn back the clock.”
Camille A. Clare, MD, MPH, CPE, FACOG, chair of ACOG District II said, “In a time when women’s reproductive healthcare is under attack across this country, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II is proud to stand with Governor Hochul as she prioritizes access to comprehensive abortion services. Abortion is health care and ACOG District II supports and uplifts the voices of the women seeking abortion services and the medical professionals who provide them. New York State must become a safe haven for anyone seeking abortion care and our medical leadership looks forward to partnering with the Governor and the Department of Health as they work to ensure a comprehensive and transparent system of abortion care here in New York.”
Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund said, “Texas has passed the most extreme abortion ban in the country, leading to a crisis point for abortion access. The NIRH Action Fund is pressing forward in every state and city we can to secure equitable access to abortion care — because everyone who needs care should receive with it with support, with dignity, and without fear. We applaud Governor Hochul for taking bold action to ensure that New York State is doing all it can to ensure access to all New Yorkers and all those who travel here for care. We invite governors and legislators in states across the country to follow her lead.”
Plan to Ensure the Right to Abortions in New York State
In an effort to ensure the right to abortions in New York State, the Department of Health will develop webpage on the provision of abortion care, complete with a Patient Bill of Rights. This will include information on abortion care in New York State, patients’ rights to abortion care within New York State, and links to identify providers who offer abortion services.
DOH will convene a group of experts to develop and issue a guidance document on the provision of abortion care in New York State. This will include collaboration from American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, National Abortion Federation, National Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, New York Civil Liberties Union and clinical providers with an expertise in abortion care. Webinar on guidance document and clinical considerations will be open to providers across New York State and recorded for ongoing availability on the DOH website.
Guidance for Individual Provider Discretion Under Reproductive Health Act
The New York State Department of Health will develop guidance with an emphasis on clarifying the full scope of individual provider discretion under the Reproductive Health Act, and the definition of the term “commencement of pregnancy” as it relates to abortion care. The New York State Abortion Guidance Document will be shared with all New York State clinical providers able to perform abortion in New York State via the Health Commerce System.
The Department of Health will enact regulatory updates including to allow for provision of services via telehealth. These updates will ensure that medication abortion is more easily accessed during telehealth visits, and with the goal of making this an option irrespective of the pandemic.