With an eye on the courts, a growing number of Democratic-led states are stockpiling the pills that can be used for a medication abortion, the most common form of the procedure in the US.
The officials want to be prepared, in case US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision to suspend the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone goes through, so medication abortions would still be available in their states for some period of time. But they’re taking different approaches to the idea.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that her state’s Department of Health would buy 150,000 doses of misoprostol, the other of the two drugs typically used in a medication abortion.
Misoprostol can be used off-label for an abortion, without mifepristone, but patients often have to use more of it. It would not be covered by the court case, and if Kacsmaryk’s decision stands, the New York City’s Health Department tweeted, it will change to using this medication only.
“Medication abortion continues to be available at our Sexual Health Clinics and NYC Health + Hospitals locations. Should mifepristone become unavailable, we will continue to make medication abortion accessible to all in NYC by shifting to a misoprostol-only treatment regimen,” the tweet said.
The state says the 150,000 doses should represent a five-year supply of pills.
“Anti-choice extremists have shown that they are not stopping at overturning Roe, and they are working to entirely dismantle our country’s reproductive health care system, including medication abortion and contraception,” Hochul said. “New York will always be a safe harbor for abortion care, and I am taking action to protect abortion access in our State and continue to lead the nation in defending the right to reproductive autonomy.”
California is also stocking up on misoprostol.
“While California still believes Mifepristone is central to the preferred regimen for medication abortion, the State negotiated and purchased an emergency stockpile of Misoprostol in anticipation of Friday’s ruling by far-right federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to ensure that California remains a safe haven for safe, affordable, and accessible reproductive care,” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office said in a release Monday.
California plans to purchase up to 2 million pills through CalRx, a state initiative set up to make drugs more affordable.
The governor’s office said the state now has more than 250,000 pills on hand, which it purchased for about $100,000.
California said it shared the terms of its purchase agreement with other members of the Reproductive Freedom Alliance, a nonpartisan coalition of 21 governors who are committed to protecting reproductive rights, and who might also be interested in taking such action.
Another member of that alliance, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, announced last week that his state bought a three year-supply of mifepristone, the drug at the center of Kacsmaryk’s ruling.
Inslee directed the state Department of Corrections – which has a pharmacy license and is legally able to buy medications – to buy the drug last month, he said, and the shipment was delivered March 31. The University of Washington also purchased 10,000 doses.
Lawmakers are introducing a bill to authorize officials to distribute or sell the medication to licensed providers throughout the state.
“This Texas lawsuit is a clear and present danger to patients and providers all across the country. Washington will not sit by idly and risk the devastating consequences of inaction,” Inslee said. “Washington is a pro-choice state, and no Texas judge will order us otherwise.”
In the meantime, its attorney general, Bob Ferguson, is helping lead a multistate lawsuit to protect access to mifepristone.
On Friday, the same day Kacsmaryk’s ruling came down, a federal judge in Washington ordered the US not to make any changes that would restrict access to mifepristone in the territories that brought the lawsuit: 17 states and the District of Columbia.
On Monday, Massachusetts Gov. Maura T. Healey announced that at her request, the University of Massachusetts and health care providers have also taken action to stockpile doses of mifepristone.
The governor’s office said last week that the university bought about 15,000 doses of mifepristone, enough to cover the commonwealth for about a year, and the pills are expected to arrive this week. Local health care providers have agreed to buy more, and the government agreed to set aside $1 million to pay for those doses.
The Massachusetts governor also signed an executive order confirming protections for medication abortion under existing law.
“Here in Massachusetts, we are not going to let one extremist judge in Texas turn back the clock on this proven medication and restrict access to care in our state,” Healey said. “The action we are taking today protects access to mifepristone in Massachusetts and protects patients and providers from liability. In Massachusetts, we stand for civil rights and freedom. We will always protect access to reproductive health care, including medication abortion.”
Danco Laboratories, the manufacturer of the brand-name version of mifepristone, says that orders for the drug have increased substantially in recent months and are significantly higher than they were at this time last year.
Demand for mifepristone is up across all types of customers, including clinics, pharmacies and individual providers, said Abby Long, Danco’s director of public affairs. But Massachusetts is the only state that has requested an especially large number of pills from the company.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills, who called the Texas decision “reckless” and a “fundamental assault on women’s rights,” said Monday that her administration is evaluating its options, “including procuring mifepristone if needed, to protect access to medication abortion for Maine women.”
The Connecticut governor’s office said Wednesday that it is also monitoring the situation.
Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek’s office said in an email Wednesday that she has directed the Oregon Health Authority to “explore all available avenues for ensuring Oregon is prepared should Mifepristone become less available. That includes evaluating the supply of Mifepristone and Misoprostol and consulting with providers to better understand the potential impact on the provision of abortion and reproductive health care and what additional support might be necessary.”