Apr 13, 2023 - News

What federal abortion pill rulings mean for Pennsylvania

Illustration collage of a hand hovering over three identical medical crosses and numerous geometric shapes

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Pennsylvanians can still access the abortion drug mifepristone, despite a Texas court ruling last week that attempts to ban the pill nationwide.

Why it matters: More than half of abortions in Pennsylvania — 55% — are performed with medication, per the state’s most recent data from 2021.

Catch up quick: Two federal judges issued contradictory rulings last week regarding mifepristone, one of the two drugs commonly used together in medication-induced abortions, Axios' Sam Baker writes.

  • A Texas judge said the FDA must reverse its approval of the drug — which has been available in the U.S. for decades — while a judge in Washington state ordered the FDA not to limit mifepristone’s availability.
  • The Justice Department has appealed the Texas decision.

What’s happening: Pennsylvania launched a website this week to publicize that abortion medication is legal and available.

  • The site lists abortion service providers throughout the state.

Zoom in: A spokesperson for Gov. Josh Shapiro tells Axios the administration continues to explore options to keep abortion medication accessible in response to the Texas court's ruling.

  • While some Democratic-led states such as Massachusetts are stockpiling doses of mifepristone, Pennsylvania is unable to do because it's prohibited from purchasing the drug with state dollars.

State of play: Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania through 23 weeks of pregnancy, and after that time in some cases where a patient's health is threatened.

Yes, but: Abortions could become less accessible if the Texas ruling stands and mifepristone isn't available.

  • Demand for surgical abortions could significantly rise, which could overwhelm health providers and clinics, Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, tells Axios.
  • Steinberg's group isn't stockpiling the drug.

By the numbers: More than 33,200 abortions were performed in the state in 2021, per the latest data.

  • Philadelphia was where 40% of procedures were performed that year.

What they’re saying: “This is unprecedented and opens the door to go after other drugs that have been approved” to perform medical abortions, Steinberg said.

What’s next: The Supreme Court is likely to decide whether the abortion pills remain legal.


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