Wednesday, June 12, 2024

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley speaks Monday at the State House in Boston on abortion rights. With her is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, left, and Gov. Maura Healey. (Photo: Ayanna Pressley via Twitter)

Massachusetts is stockpiling 15,000 doses of the abortion pill mifepristone, Gov. Maura Healey said Monday, calling it enough to get through a year as dueling court cases in Texas and Washington leave access in doubt.

The announcement came in front of supporters holding signs saying “Don’t mess with my mife,” “Abortion is healthcare,” and “Bans off our bodies” as she and local and state leaders stood in front of the State House.

Nearly 10 months ago, almost the same group was gathered after the Supreme Court of the United States released Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the abortion and privacy case Roe v. Wade, Healey noted.

A Friday decision out of the Texas court in Amarillo could affect all doses and uses of mifepristone, said Nicole Huberfeld, co-director of the Boston University Law Program in Reproductive Justice and the Edward R. Utley Professor of Health Law at the BU School of Public Health.

While a 200-milligram dose of mifepristone – known by the brand name Mifeprex – is used in combination with 800 micrograms of misoprostol for an abortion, the same doses of both medications can be used to manage a miscarriage. Mifepristone also comes in a 300 mg dose, marketed under Kormlyn, to treat Cushing’s disease and is normally taken three times daily by patients. Other uses for mifepristone are still being studied and noted.

“The decision is broadly worded, and in my view would cover all uses of mifepristone because the drug itself would be unapproved rather than certain uses of it,” said Huberfeld of the Texas ruling, which does not affect misoprostol.

Local hospitals cautious

Healy said she has been in touch with the administration of President Joe Biden and that they are taking action against the Texas ruling.

Local hospitals were cagey Monday in responding to the potential ban.

“We are reviewing the courts’ decisions, as well as the actions taken by both the Healey and Biden administrations. We fully support our providers’ medical judgment in caring for their patients,” said Robert Fields, the chief clinical officer at Beth Israel Lahey Health. Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Hospital is part of Beth Israel.

At Cambridge Health Alliance, which serves residents – many of them low-income – in Cambridge and Somerville, spokesperson David Cecere said doctors would “continue to honor the health care decisions made between our patients and their providers surrounding reproductive health issues and will follow the standards of care supported by national organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.”

Clashing rulings

The Texas ruling is in conflict with one the same evening from a Washington state judge who ruled narrowly on the issue of mifepristone for use in medication-induced abortion, issuing an injunction in 17 states and the District of Columbia that asks the Food and Drug Administration to maintain current guidelines. The Washington ruling would not affect Massachusetts.

The FDA responded Monday, asking for clarification because the rulings are in contradiction.

Healy said that she and others gathered would take any action needed in Massachusetts to protect free and fair access.

Pressley “loud and proud”

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley, also at the State House, said it was a hard day to speak – a mass shooting was in the news, and it was just days after two Black lawmakers in Tennessee lost their seats after protesting mass shootings.

“We will out-organize and we will out-legislate their hate,” Pressley said. “This is a dark moment, and I don’t say that hyperbolically.” Pressley called the move to limit access to mifepristone nationally – 10 months after the Dobbs decision said abortion access should be a state-by-state decision – a “coordinated attack.”

“The mask is off,” said Rebecca Hard Holder, president of Reproductive Equity Now.

Pressley said as a Black women, she is reminded that 1 in 4 black women die in childbirth or of post-birth complications.

“Let me say it loud and say it proud: Abortion is health care,” Pressley said.”There is no shame in seeking an abortion – like the 1 in 4 women who’ve had an abortion, like the women you know and worship with.”

But those gathered acknowledged that there will be questions and fear despite the state and its institutions stockpiling mifepristone, or a 2022 state shield law saying patients and doctors are protected when prescribing and taking it. The governor issued an executive order Monday reaffirming the shield law and instructing the state Department of Public Health to provide support to public universities and colleges for medication-abortion readiness plans. Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell urged anyone with questions to call an Abortion Legal Hotline at (833) 309-6301.

Sue Reinert contributed to this report.