Thanks to the 1992 Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v Casey, that made a “mess” of jurisprudence around abortion, GOP-led states have had largely free reign to pass intrusive restrictions on women’s health care under the guise of “health and safety”. While these laws are sometimes blocked by courts, anti-choicers continue to revive them, wasting millions of dollars in the process, in the hopes of exhausting opponents and/or getting more favorable court decisions as Republicans continue to stack the nation’s courts with ideologically friendly judges.
One such law was Arizona’s requirement that abortion doctors use outdated FDA protocol in dispensing abortion pills. The original label from 2000 recommended use of the pills only until the seventh week of pregnancy. But FDA guidelines are not laws and physicians commonly experiment with different levels and uses of medication to do what’s best for their patients. This is typical with many types of medications, not just for abortion. Arizona anti-choicers first tried to override the judgment of doctors on medication abortion in 2012, but were thwarted in court. This year, under Governor Doug Ducey, who is arguably even more anti-choice than his predecessor Jan Brewer, they brought it back as SB1324, which Ducey signed last week.
And Ducey signed it into law after the FDA announced new protocol for abortion medication, which finally brought theirs into sync with how doctors have actually been prescribing it for years. This will inevitably trigger a court challenge to the new Arizona law and has sparked a very revealing tirade from Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod. From her latest Five Minutes for Families:
Why is this such a significant and offensive change? First, the new protocol is essentially a rubber stamp by President Obama’s FDA of Planned Parenthood’s preferred protocol. As has been reported, years ago the abortion industry “found that prescribing a lower dose of the expensive mifepristone and increasing misoprostol saved approximately $200 per abortion,” allowing for a larger profit margin. And this week’s action by the FDA amounts to the FDA blessing this profits-over-safety approach.
Second, although touted as a protocol that increases access to medication abortions, the protocol does so at the expense of women’s health and safety. The new protocol increases the gestational limit from seven weeks to 10 weeks (one week beyond even what Planned Parenthood says has been their practice), yet the statistics are clear that after seven weeks the risk of complications and frequency of incomplete abortions needing follow-up surgical abortions multiplies. The FDA apparently has ignored this information.
Another common sense safety requirement thrown out by the new protocol is to no longer require that the second pill be taken in a clinic or physician’s office. Rather, the new advice of the FDA is to take the second labor-inducing drug at “a location appropriate for the patient.” Increasing access and customers for Planned Parenthood should not be the main focus when the government is setting recommended health and safety standards for the entire country.
Finally, the lack of transparency and absence of public notice or comment is telling. Contrary to what Planned Parenthood would suggest, not all medical experts agree that their profits-over-safety protocol is safer than the original FDA protocol. It’s the abortion industry and their allies who agree. Given the difference in medical opinion, the FDA should have exercised due diligence and heard from all parties instead of just the drug’s manufacturer and the abortion-at-any-cost-for-any-reason-at-any-stage-of-pregnancy crowd.
Weird how the FDA was the gold standard for abortion care right up until they changed their guideline a week ago and then instantly became a tool Big Abortion! Herrod has exactly zero medical expertise, as she’s an attorney who has dedicated her career to pushing religious dogma on people, but she does clearly have a huge ego.
Cathi Herrod, it should be noted, has in the past admitted to wanting to punish women for sex, including by damaging their health and risking their lives. Here she is in 2007, stating her opposition to the HPV vaccine, which prevents future cervical cancer contracted via sexually-transmitted disease:
The vaccine has become a hot-button issue across the U.S. with social conservatives rallying against requiring it because they say it sends the wrong message to young people about sex.
“This is not a disease that schoolchildren catch sitting at a desk,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, which backed the prohibition.
Keep that in mind when you understand that one of the other ways that abortion doctors had been deviating from the original FDA guideline, apart from extending the number of weeks the abortion drugs could be used, was in decreasing the dosage to one found to be safer for women using it. But Cathi Herrod and her crew want the older, higher dose codified into law permanently, despite it being known to be less safe. Because, duh, they want to punish women for non-procreative sex, not help them be safer.
I suspect that anti-choicers’ antipathy toward abortion pills is of a piece with their white-hot opposition to certain forms of contraception, such as morning after pills and IUDs. When your goal is to subject women to public humiliation and outright terror for the “crime” of having sex and seeking to avoid the “consequence” of pregnancy, that is severely undermined when women can simply go to a clinic or a drugstore and handle the situation in private.
If anti-choicers can’t exert the kind of total control over women’s lives that they want, then by God at least they should be able to scream at the whores as they enter abortion clinics! But if women use IUDs, which are as close to 100% effective at preventing pregnancy as is possible at this point, they don’t get to do that. If women who didn’t use contraception prior to sex are able to get emergency contraception (which, if taken correctly, is fairly reliable at preventing conception) over the counter then, again, no being able to scream at the wh…uh…I mean…”sidewalk counsel” them.
Similarly, abortion pills were originally intended to be prescribed by physicians or nurse practitioners to women, who would take them at home. As soon as anti-choicers realized this would enable women to avoid screaming picketers and other indignities they deem necessary, they clamored for laws requiring the same waiting periods and mandatory doctor visits as surgical abortion.
But the very existence of abortion pills obviously poses a problem for anti-choicers, since it undercuts one of their main tactics to manipulate the emotions of the general public. It’s difficult to evoke gruesome imagery of “babies being torn apart!” if a woman simply swallows a couple of pills and expels the contents of her uterus. So they’ve pushed the “health and safety” angle really hard in their efforts to essentially regulate the legal use of medication abortion out of existence.
It hasn’t worked very well, clearly, as they’ve even lost AZ Republic columnist Laurie Roberts on this, after she made a huge point expressing her squeamishness over abortion in the days after the bogus Planned Parenthood “sting” story broke. And now anti-choicers can no longer pretend the FDA is in their corner. Basically, no one is. Their narcissism and authoritarian tendencies are laid bare for all to see, and anyone who doesn’t see it is deliberately avoiding the truth.