Minnesota medication abortion provider on what’s at stake in SCOTUS mifepristone case

A pill sits on a table in a box.
The abortion drug mifepristone pictured in an abortion clinic. The drug is at the center of a case being taken up by the Supreme Court.
Phil Walter | Getty Images 2006

The Supreme Court heard arguments today about federal regulation of the abortion pill, mifepristone. The Food and Drug Administration allowed for the virtual prescription and mailed delivery of the medication during the COVID-19 pandemic and then made those changes permanent.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, an anti-abortion doctor group formed after the Dobbs ruling, is now challenging that move.

Dr. Julie Amaon is the medical director at Just the Pill, a telehealth provider of medication abortion and other sexual and reproductive health services based in Minnesota. She shared her perspective on what’s at stake in the case.

The following is a transcription of the audio heard using the player above, lightly edited for clarity.

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Give us the landscape here in Minnesota and our region. How many patients do you serve and how does it work?

We started care in Minnesota in 2020 and over the last four years, we’ve seen 7,500 patients. They see us via telehealth and mailing medication abortion and other sexual health medications and needs here in Minnesota.

How has that landscape changed in the now almost two years since the Dobbs ruling from the Supreme Court?

The day the Dobbs decision came down, our patient requests for appointments quadrupled. And we have really seen a large increase of patients seen as well as where those patients are coming from. So, we see people now from 34 different states in the four states that we serve because of the state restrictions post-Dobbs.

The plaintiffs argue that the FDA extending the pandemic era flexibility on how mifepristone can be prescribed, sent in the mail and such — is dangerous to patients. Did you see any adverse outcomes?

No, we did not. You know, this has been expanded since the public health emergency in the United States and in other countries. We have not seen any adverse effects.

There are several studies that have been done over the last couple of years and nothing has really changed. These medications are both safe and effective. Past the last two years, we have over 20 years of data and real-world evidence of the safety of these medications.

I imagine a lot of people listening and watching the case who are against abortion, are saying, ‘Wait a minute, Dobbs put abortion law in state hands. Now, the FDA and organizations like yours are using this drug to get around that’. What do you make of that?

Well, we’re not getting around that. We are serving states that still have access to abortion care. So, we’re not sending medications to states that have banned abortion care.

If a person in one of those banned states or more restricted states wants to travel to one of the four states that we serve, they can travel there, have their telehealth appointment and receive their medications there. So, we’re not going around this rule.

I mean, I just think this is a spurious lawsuit. And there was a period of time where you could challenge the FDA. But this is 20 years. This has never been done before.

So, I think that this would invite future lawsuits, years or decades after approval and could cast uncertainty over every FDA approval in the future.