Skip to content

Center for Reproductive Rights Challenges AUL’s Language Banning the Dispensing of Abortion Drugs over the Internet

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) has challenged Oklahoma’s new law (HB 1970) which requires that physicians examine a woman before dispensing dangerous abortion drugs like RU-486, thereby banning “telemed abortions”—the provision of abortion drugs over the internet or via teleconference.  The law is based on AUL’s “Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act.”

The law was championed by Representative Randy Grau and Senator Greg Treat in Oklahoma, who saw the need to reign in the misuse of abortion drugs that has caused numerous deaths around the world.

In the United States alone, at least fourteen women have died following use of RU-486.  Eight of those women died from sepsis (bacterial infection), and in each of those cases the woman had been told to use the RU-486 drug regimen in a manner unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Of the remaining deaths, two women died from ruptured ectopic pregnancy—a condition that could have been treated had the woman been properly examined prior to receiving the drugs. 

In sum, it is possible that at least 10 of the 14 deaths could have been prevented if the abortion providers had screened women and provided the drugs according to the way the FDA has instructed.

To that end, the law in Oklahoma simply requires that 1) abortion drugs be dispensed only by a physician; 2) the physician examine the woman prior to providing the drugs; and 3) the physician follow the guidelines agreed to by the FDA and the drug manufacturer for dispensing the drugs, which is outlined explicitly in the drug’s label (and sometimes referred to as the “FDA protocol” for administering abortion drugs). 

The law does not ban abortion.  The law does not prevent women from using RU-486.  The law is aimed simply at protecting women from the documented harms of misuse (or “off-label” use) of abortion drugs.

CRR’s challenge to the law is frivolous and clearly demonstrates the organization’s agenda in promoting abortion-on-demand, and a lack of concern for women’s health.  For example, CRR has argued that the law is vague.  However, the physician is directed to look at the drug label, which plainly lays out the guidelines for dispensing abortion drugs.  In fact, in CRR’s filings before the court, its experts both explain the “FDA protocol,” and then inconsistently claim to not know what the “FDA protocol” is. 

CRR has argued also that the “off-label” use of abortion drugs (like RU-486) is safer than following the FDA’s protocol.  Yet there are no peer-reviewed studies demonstrating that off-label use of abortion drugs is safe.  To the contrary, studies have demonstrated that surgical abortions have less frequent complications, and by Planned Parenthood’s own admission, off-label use of abortion drugs has come at the cost of women’s lives and “higher-than-expected” consequences to health.[1]  Further, CRR chooses to ignore the fact that the “off-label” use it is fighting for has killed women.

That fact bears repeating: The off-label use of RU-486 that CRR is fighting to use has killed women.  Period.

Unfortunately, the Oklahoma trial court did not dig deeper into CRR’s flawed arguments this week, instead entering a preliminary injunction against the law while the case moves forward.

AUL applauds the work of Representative Grau and Senator Treat in their efforts to enact HB 1970, and will readily assist the Attorney General of Oklahoma in defending the law against CRR’s draconian effort to promote a practice that is killing women.

AUL’s “Abortion-Inducing Drugs Safety Act” is available here.  AUL’s extensive talking points on the legislation are available here.

[1] Mary Fjerstad, N.P., M.H.S., et al., Rates of Serious Infection after Changes in Regimens for Medical Abortion, 361 New. Eng. J. Med. 145 (2009). Mrs. Fjerstad and Dr. Cullins report having been employed by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) at the time of the study.  Drs. Lichtensberg and Trussell report serving on the PPFA National Committee.  “No other conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.”