On Wednesday, March 30, the Food and Drug Administration approved new, more relaxed guidelines for mifepristone, formally known as RU-486, a pill that induces abortion. The new guidelines allow women to use the pill further along into the pregnancy and with fewer visits to a doctor as long as they take a reduced dose. More specifically, as long as the dosage of the drug is reduced from 600 to 200 milligrams, women can now start taking the drug 10 weeks into pregnancy instead of seven and with only two visits to the doctor instead of three. Doctors claim that new evidence has emerged since the pill was first approved in 2000 to support these changes to the regulations.
Since the FDA announced the new regulations, pro-life advocates have expressed their disappointment with the changes. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, spoke out against the new policy. In a statement released on April 1 he said, “The unofficial, off-label use of RU-486 is now the new normal, paving the way for the destruction of even more innocent lives, and putting women and girls at risk for all the life-changing effects of abortion."
"Far from wanting abortion to be 'rare', abortion advocates are celebrating this expanded use as opening an ever-widening door to abortion," Dolan added. "They are equally celebrating the FDA's neglect of women's health. Women have died from this drug, and many who used it after eight weeks of pregnancy ended up returning for surgical abortions. This anguish, too, will now be visited on more women."
Deirdre McQuade, a spokeswoman for the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, said, "People need to know this is a very, very serious expansion of the use of RU-486… Clearly the loosening of the FDA guidelines puts more women, girls and unborn children at risk."
Several state legislatures have introduced legislation to restrict the new FDA regulations. The governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, signed a bill that requires abortion clinic to follow the earlier, stricter protocol for the RU-486. The bill also states that Arizona doctors must abide by the federal guidelines that existed on December 31, 2015, before the new FDA regulations were passed. Despite the challenges to the legality of the Arizona bill, The Center for Arizona Policy— a conservative Christian group—supported the governor, saying that the FDA decision was an “outrageous action” and that “We will be working with legislative leaders to respond.”
Other states—including Arkansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Texas—passed laws requiring doctors to abide by FDA regulation and not prevailing medical practice. In Arkansas and Oklahoma, the courts blocked these laws after deeming them “unconstitutional burdens on abortion rights.”