On Offense for Repro Rights in 2023
Hello, friends, and belated Happy New Year! I hope you had a chance to rest and recombobulate over the holidays.
There has been a LOT going on in the reproductive rights/justice world over the past couple of weeks. Below is a recap of a few very important changes along with things you can do today to safeguard our reproductive freedoms. One thing I hope you notice is that we’re on offense everywhere!
Plan B label clarification. The FDA has issued clarification for Plan B labels explicitly stating that it is contraception not abortion medication. The FDA will, “remove references on the contraception's packaging that claim, without scientific evidence, that the pill prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.”
One quarter of women have used Plan B, meaning 25% of women have held medication bottles with patently false information on it. Here’s an interesting question: given that the claim that Plan B was abortion medication is scientifically untrue, how was that label language created in the first place? It’s impossible to know because the FDA is a completely opaque, secretive organization.
Speaking of the FDA . . .
Mifepristone allowed to be dispensed by retail pharmacies. The FDA announced the retail pharmacies can now dispense abortion medication. Until now the medication was only available directly from clinicians and through online pharmacies like Honeybee Health. However, this announcement comes with lots and lots of fine print. The pharmacy AND pharmacists all have to be certified to dispense the medication. Oh, and although the FDA announced this certification process for online pharmacists about 18 months ago, they have yet to say exactly what that process entails.
Of course, it is good news that the FDA is inching its way towards greater access to reproductive medications, but I believe that we will look back on this moment in time and wonder why they were so timid and afraid. In order to dispense abortion medication, a pharmacist has to have a prescription, but why exactly do they need to be certified? They don’t need to be certified to dispense other safe medications. What about Mife requires this onerous, expensive step? Nothing other than politics and fear.
CVS and Walgreens announced that they are willing to dispense Mife. Hurrah. Of course, there will be blowback and protests from the antis, so we’ll have to see how the big retail chains feel after protesters start shouting outside their front doors.
Justice Department rules that abortion medication can be mailed nationally. This is the first really big news of the new year! In response to the U.S. Postal service asking for clarification of whether abortion medication could be mailed into states banning abortion, the Justice Department responded with a resounding yes!
Of course, this is going to be litigated in banned states, but the Justice Department feels strongly that they are on sure footing here, which is great news for anyone seeking abortion care in banned states. This ruling is based on the Comstock Act, a law originally passed in 1873 that governs how the Postal Service handles the delivery of contraception and items considered “obscene.”
Here are three things you can join or do or share right now to help support reproductive justice and freedom:
1. Join Reproductive Transparency Now. This is a volunteer-run network aiming to take on the Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPC). There are over 3,000 CPCs around the country pretending to be medical clinics and spreading lies about abortion to people seeking help. Reproductive Transparency Now is organizing protests and sharing information about what CPCs actually do with activists around the country.
2. Tracking federal and state lawsuits. Planned Parenthood is doing an outstanding job tracking individual lawsuits pertaining to repro health and access here.
3. Support abortion ballots. Ten states have abortion on the ballot in 2023-2024 (Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.) See if your state is one of them. Or get your state on the list! You can find out more about abortion ballot measures from the Fairness Project.
I am feeling very optimistic about the direction we are heading. It’s going to be a very long fight, but it feels like our people and politics are finally aligning to support access to fundamental reproductive health care for everyone, everywhere. Onward to more freedom, more choices, more justice in 2023!