A flurry of legislation, executive orders, and lawsuits have volleyed back and forth between the Biden administration, which seeks to protect the abortion industry, and pro-life advocates attempting to protect unborn children and their mothers. As the Biden administration expanded the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs, 75 pro-life lawmakers have demanded the FDA take pills off the market altogether. As Biden’s executive actions tout expanding the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs as “essential to our [n]ation’s health,” litigators have threatened to take abortionists to state court and issued fresh warnings to corporations thinking of trafficking in life-ending drugs.
“We call on the FDA to remove mifepristone from the market, or, at minimum, promptly restore and further strengthen the initial basic health and safety requirements for abortion drugs, and cease permitting the mailing and shipping of abortion drugs in violation of [f]ederal criminal law,” wrote 75 members of Congress to the Biden administration’s Food and Drug Administration Commissioner, Robert Califf. The Biden administration’s new standard “abandons pregnant mothers to suffer alone, without proper medical evaluation or oversight, potentially life-threatening complications, which can include severe bleeding, infection, potential surgical intervention, and even death.”
It also “makes it easier for these drugs to fall into the hands of human traffickers or abusers, who may administer the drugs to pregnant mothers without their knowledge or consent,” wrote the coalition — 23 Senators and 52 U.S. representatives, led by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) — last Thursday. Ironically, by insisting abortion companies can mail abortion pills, “the FDA is, astonishingly, conditioning certification for pharmacies on their willingness to violate [f]ederal criminal law.”
This letter comes after 41 members of Congress chided Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Justice Department has “abdicated its Constitutional responsibility to enforce the law,” specifically the Comstock Act, which forbids mailing abortion-inducing drugs.
Shorn of their majority in the House of Representatives, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have increasingly advanced abortion-on-demand through a combination of executive action and bureaucratic inaction. “Members of our cabinet and our administration are now directed, as of the president’s order, to identify barriers to access” to pills that induce the death of unborn children “and to recommend actions” to facilitate their distribution nationwide, Harris told a crowd of abortionists and lobbyists in Tallahassee last Sunday, on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Biden’s memo directed AG Garland, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, and Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro Mayorkas to pursue “further efforts to protect access to” abortion. Biden also directed the Attorney General and the DHS secretary of Homeland Security “to consider actions … that would protect the safety and security of patients, providers, and third parties, and that would protect the security of pharmacies and other entities providing, dispensing, or delivering” abortion pills. “Defending and protecting [abortion] is essential to our [n]ation’s health, safety, and progress,” Biden wrote, before describing pro-life laws as “threats to the liberty” of Americans.
Congressional Republicans more closely reflect the public sentiment on abortion pills. Nearly all young voters — 91% of Gen Z and Gen Y registered voters — support requiring an abortionist to administer an ultrasound to protect mothers from ectopic pregnancies; 93% say abortionists should test women’s blood (RH) to protect women from future infertility; and 60% say the pills should be given in person to avoid them from falling into the hands of an abuser, according to a poll released this month by Students for Life of America. A previous KofC/Marist poll found that 63% of Americans oppose sending abortion-inducing pills through the mail.
“The Biden administration is trying to establish the FDA as the new Supreme Court with their regulations as the new Roe v. Wade. This abuse of power is not only an attack on states’ rights but is also an attack on common decency,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “Rest assured that 50 years after Roe v. Wade, pro-life Americans will not have the flawed and inhuman judgment of seven men replaced by the highly discredited Joe Biden.”
Biden notwithstanding, the FDA is an inauspicious vehicle to impose sweeping federal regulations. Nearly all (98%) of the rules issued by the FDA between 2001 and 2017 were unconstitutional, according to a report from the Pacific Legal Foundation.
Rather than rely on the White House to curb its own abuses, pro-life legislators and litigators at the state and federal levels have proposed laws and lawsuits to protect life from executive overreach.
On January 20, Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) introduced the Teleabortion Prevention Act of 2023, which would require abortionists to perform an in-person examination of the mother before prescribing abortion-inducing drugs, be present when she ingests them, and schedule a follow-up visit to treat any complications.
“The abortion industry continues to exploit vulnerable women through the use of chemical abortions for profit, and they are dishonest about the impact of chemical abortion on women’s health. For years they have worked to remove key health and safety protocols that require an abortionist to physically examine the mother before administering these dangerous drugs,” said Connor Semelsberger, director of Federal Affairs at Family Research Council. “Thank you to Representative Good for standing up to protect both vulnerable women and their unborn children.”
Similarly, Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) introduced a bill to rescind the FDA’s loosening of women’s health protections on the distribution of abortion-inducing pills and prevent the agency from reverting to the lower standards in the future. This legislation “to nullify the final FDA rule that expands distribution of these drugs through telehealth and mail is urgently needed to save the lives of babies and their mothers,” said Kris Ullman, president of Eagle Forum.
Semelsberger agreed, “Despite what the Biden administration may claim, there is mounting evidence of just how dangerous do-it-yourself chemical abortions are to both unborn children and their mothers. The latest action by the FDA to put pharmacies on the front lines of distributing abortion pills — without any real concern for how this move will impact maternal health — shows just how politicized the FDA has become.”
“Thanks to pro-life leaders like Representatives Hern and Harshbarger, there is hope that this Congress will take back its role in providing oversight to the FDA and restore true health and safety measures for all Americans, including the unborn,” he concluded.
The Protect the UNBORN (Undo the Negligent Biden Orders Right Now) Act, introduced by Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), would prevent the federal government from enforcing Biden’s abortion-expanding Executive Orders 14079 and 14076.
Aside from the federal government, 29 states place commonsense regulations on chemical abortion, which has a higher rate of dangerous interactions than surgical abortion; 18 require the abortionist to be present when the woman takes the pills. And the top lawyers in nearly half the country have promised additional action to protect the unborn from the Biden administration’s abortion pill regimen.
“The authority to regulate abortion lies with the people and their elected representatives. In our states, we prioritize the health and safety of women and children and our laws reflect this,” wrote the attorneys general of 22 states to FDA Commissioner Califf on January 13. “Our [s]tates will not yield to the [a]dministration’s radical pro-abortion policies.”
Wyoming State Senator Tim Salazar (R-Riverton) introduced SF 109, which would protect unborn children in the state from abortion pills. While the bill would not punish the mother, anyone who manufactures or dispenses abortion pills would face a $9,000 fine and up to six months in prison. If passed, the law would take effect July 1.
Finally, some have appealed to the private sector to follow its conscience — or its financial self-interest — by refusing to stock abortion-inducing drugs. FRC joined more than a dozen other national groups in signing letters asking Rite Aid and Walmart not to distribute abortion-inducing pills in their pharmacies. “We are grateful that, so far, Walmart Inc. has not followed the path of CVS and Walgreens in becoming, in effect, an abortion facility,” said Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. “Pharmacies across the country should recognize that distributing these drugs is antithetical to their mission of providing medications that allow life to flourish.”
As of this writing, 53,218 people have signed FRC’s petition asking Walgreens and CVS, “Do Not Turn Your Pharmacies into Abortion Businesses!”
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved. The Washington Stand is Family Research Council’s outlet for news and commentary from a biblical worldview. The Washington Stand is based in Washington, D.C. and is published by FRC, whose mission is to advance faith, family, and freedom in public policy and the culture from a biblical worldview. We invite you to stand with us by partnering with FRC.