Editor’s Note: Maura T. Healey, a Democrat, is the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts. She was previously the state’s attorney general. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. Read more opinion at CNN.
The Supreme Court made the right call with its order last week that mifepristone, a widely used abortion medication, can remain on the market for the time being. Unfortunately, the decision won’t stop attacks on reproductive freedom.
In states such as Massachusetts that protect civil rights and women’s health, we will be ready.
Every American should be deeply concerned that one extreme, Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas came close to overturning the US Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, which has been used safely and effectively for more than 20 years.
Mifepristone is used in nearly half of abortions in my state. The judge’s decision, which ran contrary to science, medicine and the law, was an attack on women and on our health care system. And it would have disproportionately harmed those who already face the highest barriers to care and are less able to travel elsewhere to access it — people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.
It’s alarming that in the interest of advancing its nationwide crusade against reproductive freedom, the anti-abortion movement was willing to challenge the FDA’s independent, trusted and science-based process for approving medications.
Elements of this anti-women and anti-science movement have pushed for stringent abortion bans around the country as well as restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion. They’ve encouraged lawmakers to impose unwarranted restrictions on providers of reproductive health care, including the imposition of burdensome mandatory waiting periods for abortions.
The ban on mifepristone, had it remained in place, would have set yet another dangerous precedent: Which lifesaving, FDA-approved medication would they try to ban next? Which new, innovative medications wouldn’t come to fruition because of these assaults on the FDA’s regulatory process?
That’s why hundreds of prominent leaders in the drug and biotech industries raised the alarm. Their companies don’t make mifepristone, but they knew that if the ruling by the judge in Texas were allowed to go into effect, it would have had devastating consequences for the regulation of all medications.
As the governor of Massachusetts, the nation’s hub for life sciences, my opposition to the court ruling in Texas was rooted in concern over the negative impact it would have on women, doctors, our health care system, innovation and our economy.
That’s why I took action even before the ruling came down. In Massachusetts, we weren’t going to let one extremist judge restrict access to care for women in our state. At our request, the University of Massachusetts purchased 15,000 doses of mifepristone this month that providers across the state can access.
Other health care providers purchased their own supplies, and we provided funding to assist state-contracted providers with the purchases. In total, we have enough doses in our state to last well over a year.
I also took executive action to protect patients and providers who access these doses. Last year, following the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, Massachusetts passed a law that protects patients and providers from facing civil or criminal liability for receiving or performing an abortion in the state.
And after the ruling in Texas, I signed an executive order confirming that these protections include medication abortion and medical management of miscarriage. This ensures that providers, including pharmacists, can continue to use, prescribe, dispense and administer mifepristone and will protect providers and patients from criminal and civil liability for accessing this essential care.
The bottom line: As a result of the Supreme Court’s order staying the Texas judge’s decision, mifepristone remains safe, legal and available nationwide. And because of the action we took, it will remain that way in Massachusetts regardless of the final outcome of this case — or any future attacks on reproductive freedoms.
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We might have avoided the worst possible outcome for now, but we know the anti-abortion movement isn’t letting up. But neither will we. Already more than 20 million women have lost access to abortion in their states because of the overturning of Roe. Republican legislatures across the country are imposing cruel abortion bans and penalties on providers for doing their jobs. Clinics have been forced to close, and many of those that remain are overwhelmed with need.
This attack on women’s freedoms is unacceptable. We will never stop protecting and expanding access to reproductive health care, including abortion. Democratic governors are going to continue leading this charge. We have the power to ensure that our states remain beacons of health, equity and hope — including welcoming those from states that are restricting abortion. We will always stand for civil rights and freedom.
Medications should be approved based on their safety and efficacy — on science, not politics. Patients in Massachusetts will continue to have access to abortion care. And providers in our state — without fear of legal repercussions — will be able to give their patients the essential care that they need and deserve.