In November 2021, three men entered a reproductive health clinic in White Plains, NY to threaten patients and personnel. They had to be carried out by police. Soon thereafter, the Westchester County Legislature passed a bill creating a 25-foot buffer zone to protect patients and personnel from protestors outside of clinics, and protecting people inside of clinics from protestors as well. This was, of course, fantastic news. However, it took twelve years to pass this legislation.
The loss of Roe wasn’t the only reason this legislation finally passed. We also elected a lot of women to the county legislature, and for the first time in our history both the chair and vice chair are women . (Go, Catherine and Nancy!!)
As the story about my home county reveals, even in what appear to be the safest, bluest places, there is a lot of work to be done to safeguard reproductive health access for everybody.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed and become paralyzed by the horror stories of women being denied basic health care that we read about every day. So, let’s not do that! We (you!) can get to work locally where politics and access matter the most right now.
Here are a few questions you can ask your local elected officials:
Do we have accurate information about where and how residents can access abortion care in person and online?
Have we legally protected our local clinics from attacks outside and inside
Are we using every microphone and megaphone we have to tell people the lies being spread by local Crisis Pregnancy Centers. There are thousands of these centers around the country, operating in seemingly benign ways to support pregnant people. But they are anything but harmless. Their mission is to spread lies about abortion to vulnerable, pregnant people. Here is an overview of the lies these centers tell from Planned Parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/blog/what-are-crisis-pregnancy-centers
Onto other news:
Go, Gophers! Minnesota’s legislature passed a law enshrining the right to abortion into the state’s constitution, and the Democratic governor has pledged to sign the bill. This makes Minnesota the first state since Roe was overturned to add the constitutional right to abortion into the state constitution. (Kansas and other states passed referenda to protect existing state constitutional rights.) Have you checked whether your state’s constitution protects abortion rights?
Honeybee Health got certified. I missed the announcement that Honeybee Health was certified by the FDA to dispense Mifepristone permanently online at the beginning of January! In addition to great news for people accessing their medications via Honeybee, this also means that there actually is a process for certification, which was uncertain when the FDA announced the requirement.
CVS, RiteAid and Walgreens have pledged to go through the certification process, but haven’t done so yet. This is due, in part, because the process is onerous, in particular the requirement that each clinician prescribing the medication is certified. This is not required for any other medication as safe as Mifepristone.
Getting retail pharmacies to dispense Mifepristone is not going to happen overnight, but it is going to happen - if we make it happen (foreshadowing for action item below!)
Lawsuit updates. There are lots and lots of lawsuits going on, but there are two really big ones to keep track of. You may have heard that a federal judge in TX is weighing whether to force BioGenPro to remove mifepristone from the marketplace. Basically, the lawsuit aims to invalidate the entire history of the FDA’s approval of mifepristone because they don’t like the result. I’m not going to pretend that I understand how a Texas judge is in a position to overturn twenty three years of decisions by the FDA with over two decades of data overwhelmingly proving that the drug is safe and effective. However, like so many tentacles of the story of reproductive rights, religious interests masking as public health concerns are being used to restrict access to health care for women. Losing this case will be an enormous setback for reproductive rights – but it won’t be the last word. We are in for many years of legal uncertainty and wrangling. The resulting chaos, of course, benefits the anti’s but we can’t allow this one lawsuit to make us give up. Which is why, we also need to pay attention to this lawsuit:
GenBioPro files suit in West Virginia. You may recall from last year that GenBioPro, one of just two manufacturerse of Mifepristone in the U.S., filed suit in Mississippi saying that the FDA and U.S. postal service outweigh state laws. GenBioPro withdrew that lawsuit because it was sitting in a very unfavorable district and resubmitted it in West Virginia. This lawsuit is as important as the one in TX, because if GenBioPro wins this case it allows us to mail abortion medication into any state in the country.
And, finally, here is one more thing you can do today:
Pressure pharmacy chains. Please consider signing this petition sponsored by Reproaction to urge pharmacies to stock mifepristone. This is the kind of offensive action that we have too often lacked in the past. Let’s tell the pharmacies that we expect them to support women’s reproductive health!!
Stay local and stay strong, friends!