Washington officials say they have 30,000 doses of mifepristone ready to go. : NPR

Washington officials say they have 30,000 doses of mifepristone ready to go.  : NPR

Mifepristone is one of two pills used in medical abortions and is used in the vast majority of such abortions in the United States.

Allen G. Race/AP

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Allen G. Race/AP

Mifepristone is one of two pills used in medical abortions and is used in the vast majority of such abortions in the United States.

Allen G. Race/AP

Washington state officials have stocked up on a key abortifacient drug in anticipation of the possibility that it will become much more difficult to access nationwide, pending the outcome of a filed federal lawsuit by anti-abortion groups.

Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said he ordered the Washington Department of Corrections to use its pharmacy license to buy 30,000 doses of mifepristone, an estimated three-year supply for patients in the state. from Washington. The pills were received on March 31.

Inslee says the University of Washington got 10,000 more doses, about enough for a fourth year.

Noting that Washington is the first state to take such a step, Inslee called the purchase an “insurance policy” in case the drug becomes unavailable.

Inslee’s office says about 800 abortions a month, or 60% of abortions in the state, take place using pills. State officials say they anticipate an increase in demand for abortion pills due to restrictions that have come into effect in other states in response to last summer’s crisis. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Texas last year, a coalition of healthcare providers and anti-abortion medical groups is asking a judge to overturn the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone and to withdraw it from the market. Mifepristone was first approved in 2000 for use in combination with another drug, misoprostol, to induce certain first-trimester abortions. It is also used to treat miscarriages and for other gynecological purposes.

The federal judge handling the abortion pill case, Matthew Kacsmaryk, is expected to rule any day. Kacsmaryk was appointed by former President Donald Trump and has a history of handing down rulings favorable to conservative causes. During a hearing held in Amarillo on March 15, he posed several questions to lawyers on both sides of the case about how, in practical terms, a nationwide injunction against mifepristone might be drafted.

“This lawsuit in Texas is a clear and present danger to patients and providers across the country. Washington will not sit idly by and risk the devastating consequences of inaction,” Inslee said in a statement. “We are not afraid to take action to protect our rights. Washington is a pro-choice state and no judge in Texas will tell us otherwise.”

A bill introduced by Democratic lawmakers in Washington state would give the Department of Corrections the power to distribute mifepristone to public and private health clinics in the state.

At a Tuesday press conference announcing the effort, one of the bill’s sponsors, State Senator Karen Keiser, said she was concerned about the power of judges to make decisions affecting patients. , even in states where abortion remains legal.

“How these federal judges get to the point where they can govern for the nation is beyond me, but we can embrace creative solutions,” Keizer said.

Nationwide, at least half of abortions are now performed with medication rather than surgery, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. Mifepristone is used in the vast majority of medical abortions in the United States, according to data from Guttmacher.

Some abortion providers across the country say they are preparing to switch to an alternative medical abortion protocol, which relies solely on misoprostol. This diet is not FDA approved, but it is widely used around the world.

But the steps taken in Washington could help preserve some access — at least for patients living in or visiting that state — to mifepristone. Medical experts say the medical abortion protocol is considered the gold standard because it’s more predictable and often less painful for patients.

A competing federal lawsuit filed by a dozen Democratic attorneys general, including Bob Ferguson of Washington, seeks to remove certain restrictions on the drug and prevent the FDA from removing it from the market.

Ferguson told reporters Tuesday that he viewed his lawsuit as “the opposite of what is happening in Texas” and filed it because he believed “anti-abortion activists…won’t back down.” nothing until they take away every last vestige of reproductive freedom for Americans across the country, including people who live in states where abortion is safe and legal.”

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