Washington stocks up on abortion pills ahead of court ruling

Apr 4, 2023, 4:41 PM

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — Washington state has purchased a three-year supply of a leading abortion medication in anticipation of a court ruling that could limit its availability, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

The Democratic governor said he ordered the Department of Corrections, which has a pharmacy license, to buy 30,000 doses of the generic version of mifepristone at a cost of about $1.28 million, or $42.50 per pill. The shipment arrived in late March.

A two-pill combination of mifepristone and misoprostol is the most common form of abortion in the U.S. Research shows that medication-induced abortions are safe and effective. They were approved by the Food and Drug Administration over 20 years ago.

The awaited ruling in a Texas lawsuit brought by a Christian group — in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year to strip away the constitutional right to end a pregnancy — would affect states where abortion is legal as well as those that outlaw it.

“This Texas lawsuit is a clear and present danger to patients and providers all across the country,” Inslee said in a statement. “Washington will not sit by idly and risk the devastating consequences of inaction.”

Former President Donald Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk heard debate in March over the Alliance Defending Freedom’s request to revoke or suspend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. The conservative group claims it was improperly approved.

Kacsmaryk said he would rule “as soon as possible” without giving any clear indication of how he might decide.

The bulk pill purchase also comes as Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson pursues the issue from another angle: He’s helping to lead a multistate lawsuit in federal court meant to further ease restrictions to the medication.

The lawsuit filed with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in February against the FDA accuses it of singling out mifepristone for excessively burdensome regulation despite evidence that the drug is safer than Tylenol, Ferguson said in a statement at the time.

The lawsuit asks the court to find certain FDA restrictions unlawful and to stop the federal agency from enforcing or applying them to mifepristone.

State lawmakers are also bringing legislation that will authorize the state Department of Corrections to sell or distribute the drug stockpile to licensed providers in Washington.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Karen Keiser, of Des Moines, said the last year has made it clear that they can’t be complacent when it comes to reproductive health.

“The Legislature is taking a number of crucial steps this session to protect abortion rights,” Keiser said, “but those rights are meaningless without access to care.”

Several moves have been made in Washington to strengthen abortion access, including a directive from Inslee instructing the Washington State Patrol not to cooperate with out-of-state abortion investigations. Other abortion and gender-affirming care bills are expected to pass the Washington Legislature this session.

Abortion has been legal in Washington since a 1970 statewide ballot referendum.

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Washington stocks up on abortion pills ahead of court ruling