- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2024

Elizabeth Gillette was six to seven weeks pregnant when she took the abortion pill and suffered complications: She went into labor and delivered the fetus in its amniotic sack surrounded by blood in a bathroom.

Shocked and upset, she flushed the fetus down the toilet. Ms. Gillette said she has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result.

She is asking the Supreme Court to step in and protect women who are not under medical supervision while taking the drug. Ms. Gillette received the medication from an abortion clinic and took it at home.

On Tuesday, the justices will hear arguments over the Food and Drug Administration’s changes to the distribution of mifepristone, which is used with misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy.

“I reached down and pulled out of my own body the amniotic sack — perfectly round, transparent. And inside was my perfectly formed baby, with eyes and recognizable fingers and toes. And I had to choose at that moment what to do with this baby that nobody told me I would see. They told me I would see blood, maybe just a double period,” Ms. Gillette told The Washington Times.

“I ultimately decided to flush my baby down the toilet into a septic tank, which is something that psychologically does some damage.”

She said the bleeding continued for more than a month and she had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic she was given because of a lack of proper medical screening. Ms. Gillette suffers from emotional trauma and requires a service dog.

“No matter how you feel about abortion … women like me exist. Women have found themselves on the bathroom floor just like me in pools of blood,” she said. “I really hope through this process that the Supreme Court will understand that we are here and we are suffering.”

The FDA moved in 2021 to eliminate the number of in-person doctor visits needed to obtain the drug and to allow it to be used longer into pregnancy, from seven weeks to 10 weeks. The change in the gestational period was adopted in 2016.

The Justice Department is closely watching the case as it appeals a lower court ruling that restricted the use of mifepristone.

The legal challenge was initially brought by pro-life medical providers represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty legal group. The providers say they have seen women harmed by taking the drug.

Kellie Fiedorek, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, says the FDA violated the Administrative Procedures Act when it eliminated the three medical appointments required for women to obtain the pill.

“Those three in-person doctor visits were required by the FDA to check women for ectopic pregnancies, severe bleeding, life-threatening infections, and yet the FDA decided to remove all those safeguards, even the last one, without even adequate studies to support it and endanger women’s health and safety in doing so,” Ms. Fiedorek said. “Doctors, medical associations said, ‘Enough is enough. We have to hold the FDA accountable.’”

Federal officials say the drug has been used throughout five presidential administrations and more than half of American women who choose to end pregnancies use mifepristone.

They argue that the medical providers lack standing to bring the lawsuit because their legal injuries are “speculative and attenuated.”

“Studies involving tens of thousands of women show that the serious adverse events that could give rise to the emergency situations potentially implicating respondents’ objections are extremely rare: Hospitalization, serious infections, and bleeding requiring a transfusion each occur in between 0% and 0.7% of cases,” the Justice Department wrote in its brief.

A district court ruled that the pill should not have had FDA approval, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not go that far. Instead, the appeals panel said the drug could be dispensed but not through the mail as regulators had begun to allow, and only up to seven weeks into pregnancy.

The abortion pill has been available for at least two decades, but the FDA has moved in recent years to reduce the number of in-person doctor visits required and alter the gestation period for which mifepristone could be dispensed.

The justices will consider how long the pill can be prescribed during pregnancy and whether it can be mailed as federal officials have proposed.

Meanwhile, the court rejected another case from the same group of pro-life doctors who asked the justices to review the pill’s initial FDA approval during the Clinton administration.

The drug was approved in 2000 for up to seven weeks of pregnancy, but its administration required three steps: a visit with a doctor to receive mifepristone, a second visit to get the drug misoprostol and then a follow-up to address complications.

The pill has remained available during the appellate process after the Supreme Court placed the lower court ruling on hold.

Danco Laboratories, a producer of mifepristone, petitioned the high court over the lower court’s restrictions on the pill’s distribution.

In its court filing, Danco Laboratories’ attorneys say facts do not support the suggestion that more women have needed emergency care since the FDA eliminated requirements for in-person doctor visits.

“The self-serving say-so of Respondents — who have never prescribed mifepristone or followed-up with patients after doing so — does not outweigh FDA’s assessment, after reviewing multiple scientific studies, that ‘alternatives to in-clinic follow-up are effective,’” their filing read.

The cases are FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and Danco Laboratories LLC v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

The cases come before the justices two years after the high court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that gave women a national right to abortion. After the 2022 ruling, the issue of abortion was sent back to the states to regulate.

A recent study released by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice organization, noted that the abortion pill represented 63% of abortions last year, up from 53% in 2020. The use of the pill has increased steadily since it was approved by the FDA but has jumped in the past year, potentially because of the Biden administration’s change in restrictions.

A decision in the abortion pill case is expected by the end of June.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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