The Lead

Shapiro among governors urging SCOTUS to rule in favor of medication abortion access

By: - January 30, 2024 7:45 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court could decide the future of a key abortion pill, mifepristone, more than a year after the nation’s highest court overturned Roe v. Wade allowing states to decide their own abortion laws and bans. (Getty Images)

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro is among 21 governors urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in favor of access to a drug used in medication abortions and managing miscarriages when it considers the issue next month.

The Reproductive Freedom Alliance, of which Shapiro is a member, filed an amicus brief Tuesday in the appeal of a federal court decision that would restrict nationwide access to mifepristone, one of the drugs used in a two-step regimen used to end a pregnancy.

The governors argue in the brief that if the high court allows a recent Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision affirming restrictions on the drug to stand, it would undermine the governors’ ability to support health care services and set a dangerous precedent that could extend beyond reproductive health care.

“I believe in women’s freedom to choose – and as long as I’m Governor, I will always defend freedom in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said in a statement, adding that mifepristone is safe and effective and has been used for decades. 

“Allowing a few extremist judges to threaten that option for patients nationwide and put women’s health at risk would undermine Governors’ ability to support adequate healthcare services in our states,” Shapiro said. “Let me be clear: your rights and freedoms here in Pennsylvania have not changed – you can still get a safe, legal medication abortion using mifepristone in our Commonwealth.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry filed a separate amicus brief in the Supreme Court on Tuesday in support of unrestricted access to reproductive health care and medication, which has been a vital option to maintain equitable care in rural and underserved areas.

Henry said in a statement that upholding the Fifth Circuit decision would cause confusion and restrictions in states where abortion remains legal and marginalize low-income communities with a fundamental right to equal health care. 

“I cannot and will not stand silent as those rights are threatened and women face potential physical harm without safe reproductive care options,” Henry said.

The appeal before the Supreme Court stems from the April 2023 decision of a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas reversing the decades-long U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of mifepristone.

Although the Fifth Circuit reversed part of the Texas decision on appeal, it allowed restrictions on the use of mifepristone to remain in place. Pennsylvania was a party to a separate lawsuit in which a federal judge in Washington state ordered the FDA to maintain the status quo and access in 17 states and Washington, D.C. that brought the suit.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the mifepristone case on March 26. 


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Peter Hall
Peter Hall

Peter Hall has been a journalist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 20 years, most recently covering criminal justice and legal affairs for The Morning Call in Allentown. His career at local newspapers and legal business publications has taken him from school board meetings to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and many points of interest between. He earned a degree in journalism from Susquehanna University.