Gov. Wes Moore on Friday announced a plan to stockpile mifepristone, also known as the “abortion pill,” as its future availability in the U.S. remains tangled in the court system.
The governor’s office is working with the University of Maryland Medical System to acquire more doses, according to a Friday news release.
The announcement comes two days after the administration told the Banner they were still “exploring options,” including stockpiling mifepristone, but lacked a solid plan to provide access to mifepristone for Marylanders seeking a medication abortion.
“Losing access to this medication will lead to poor health outcomes for women,” said Maryland Department of Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott in a statement. “The Maryland Department of Health is working closely with the Moore-Miller administration and is proud to protect the reproductive rights of Marylanders, and we will continue to do so.”
Other states, such as Massachusetts and Washington, have also stockpiled mifepristone. Some legal experts say that states’ existing supplies can still be used in the event a recent Texas court decision invalidating FDA approval of the drug is upheld and mifepristone is taken off the market in the U.S.
The Texas lawsuit was filed by abortion opponents in November of last year, giving states months to prepare for what many predicted would be a favorable outcome for the plaintiff.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court placed a full stay on the April 7 ruling by Trump-appointed U.S. District judge and ardent abortion opponent Matthew Kacsmaryk that invalidated FDA approval of mifepristone — widely endorsed as a safe and effective drug — until midnight on Wednesday, to buy time for the court to determine its next move. This restores access to mifepristone under pre-existing rules.
The Department of Justice had asked the Supreme Court to intervene when the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday only partially stayed Kacsmaryk’s decision — blocking the invalidation of FDA approval but curtailing access to the drug by shortening the approved gestational age at which it can be used to end a pregnancy from 10 weeks to seven weeks, and prohibiting it from being sent to patients by mail. Kacsmaryk had sought to roll back the FDA’s loosening of rules governing mifepristone that occurred starting in 2016 and the 5th Circuit allowed that part of his decision to stand.
Hours after Kacsmaryk’s decision was issued in Texas on April 7, another U.S. District judge in Washington, the Obama-appointed Thomas Rice, ruled on a lawsuit filed in February by 17 state attorneys general — including Anthony Brown of Maryland — seeking to expand access to mifepristone. The judge ordered the FDA to maintain current rules governing access to the medication while the case plays out.
At the request of the DOJ, Rice issued a clarifying order on Thursday which reiterated the Court’s legal standing to dictate access to mifepristone in states involved in the lawsuit.
In response to this, State Attorney General Brown issued a statement assuring Marylanders that mifepristone would continue to be accessible in the state.
Kathleen Hoke, director of the Legal Resource Center for Public Health Policy at University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, said “only the Supreme Court can answer” for sure whether the Washington judgement will prevail over others. Although it has temporarily placed mifepristone restrictions on hold, the court’s next move should shed more light on how use of mifepristone will be regulated while the case is heard in the 5th Circuit.
Regardless, the Supreme Court — after overturning the federal right to an abortion less than one year ago — will likely have the final word on future access to mifepristone.