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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Politicians should defer to medical experts

The potential abortion pill ban sets a dangerous precedent for government officials making medical decisions that conflict with scientific evidence 

 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 

On April 7, a federal judge in Texas ruled to suspend the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. A federal appeals court prevented an outright ban on sales but upheld other parts of the decision that would, if further upheld by the Supreme Court, restrict access to mifepristone in the U.S. significantly, including prohibiting mail order delivery and reducing the number of pregnancy term days before it is no longer usable from 70 to 49. 

The ruling is only the most recent action in a string of anti-abortion legislation since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but this case in particular has dangerous implications for the power of legislative bodies to subvert decisions made by federal departments and undermine the authority of scientific research. 

First approved by the FDA in 2000, mifepristone is taken alongside misoprostol to end a pregnancy in its early stages, and is also, in some cases, used to safely manage miscarriages. According to an article published by NPR, misoprostol-only medication-induced abortions are still considered safe and effective for the pregnant person, and are often prescribed when mifepristone isn’t readily available; however, patients experience fewer side effects when taking both pills, and it often reduces the need for a second procedure.

Restricting access to mifepristone would make medication abortions harder to obtain, even in states where access to abortions isn’t currently being threatened. The Editorial Board contends that abortion is healthcare, and the decision to end or carry a pregnancy to term is between pregnant persons and their doctors. 

The Texas ruling follows a similar pattern to politicians attempting to ban COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates, and even ban mRNA vaccines altogether. Government officials have a history of not listening to scientists or governmental health organizations in favor of pushing their own political agendas. Politicians and court judges should recognize the areas they do not have expertise in and respect the decisions of the experts in those fields.

Beyond its effects on abortion access, this decision could open the door to future invalidations of FDA approvals of drugs that are important to the health of millions of U.S. citizens. Even some anti-abortion legislators oppose courts overturning FDA approvals. According to ABC News, pro-life Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina spoke against the ruling on CNN.

“This is an FDA-approved drug,” Mace said. “I support the usage of FDA-approved drugs. Even if we might disagree, it’s not up to us to decide as legislators or even as the court system whether or not this is the right drug to use or not.”

The bipartisan backlash against the Texas court decision should be evidence enough that this is not the right way to approach legislation, no matter your political ideology. 

Science should inform policy, especially when it is backed by trusted health organizations and federal health departments, and policy should never undermine science. The Editorial Board urges you to vote for politicians who protect healthcare and respect the authority of medical experts.

 

Written by: The Editorial Board