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Ohio abortion providers await decision on future of abortion drug mifepristone

 Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf/
Allen G. Breed
Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., March 16, 2022.

The availability of a medication used in about half of abortions in Ohio could be in jeopardy following a federal judge's ruling last week.

Mifepristone was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration more than 20 years ago.

But last Friday, a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction reversing the FDA's approval of the drug nationwide. If left in place, the reversal would take effect on Friday.

Danielle Firsich is Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio. She said the ruling, combined with a competing federal ruling out of Washington state, create a landscape of chaos and confusion.

“Meaning that a lot of patients may be more hesitant to access care or not understand the rights they have to care. It may make physicians more hesitant to provide certain types of care because they are afraid that they may be doing something illegal," Firsich said.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Adarsh E. Krishen, said the ruling, if it stands, would have consequences beyond abortion care.

“What this also will mean is that patients who have early pregnancy loss or have other gynecologic obstetric complications where mifepristone is also used, will not be able to use mifepristone," Dr. Krishen said.

If mifepristone were to become unavailable nationwide, Ohioans could still access another abortion drug, misoprostol. Firsich said the plaintiffs in the Texas case are not targeting misoprostol for a very specific reason.

"And that is because it has many other medical applications far outside of abortion care. So it would be very difficult to target misoprostol in the same way that they were targeting mifepristone," she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision on whether it will stay the judge's ruling is expected by Thursday.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.