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white and purple boxes of the drug mifepristoneBoxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on March 16, 2022. The Supreme Court is deciding whether women will face restrictions in getting a drug used in the most common method of abortion in the United States, while a lawsuit continues. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

With the Supreme Court now setting up a likely battle over the continued legality of a widely used abortion medication, Catholic women and pro-life leaders are weighing in on the rapid changes affecting U.S. health care following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The court ruled on Friday in favor of the Biden administration’s request to uphold the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone, following a lower court’s decision to curb its availability as an appeals process plays out.

The head of the U.S. bishops’ committee on pro-life activities called the court’s decision “a tremendous disappointment, both for the loss of innocent preborn life from chemical abortion, and for the danger that chemical abortion poses to women.”

Catholic women and pro-life leaders are weighing in on the rapid changes affecting U.S. health care following the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

“The FDA acted unlawfully when it first approved, and later relaxed, safety requirements for prescribing and dispensing the drug,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a statement. “It is our hope and prayer that the Court will eventually overturn the FDA’s improper actions.”

In the week leading up to the decision, a group of Catholic women spoke about their views on abortion, following the release of a letter signed by more than 30 scholars urging lawmakers to enact policies favorable to family life and asking church leaders to listen to the stories of women when it comes to pregnancy.

Speaking during a virtual panel hosted by the progressive advocacy organization Faith in Public Life, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, a Catholic writer and editor at large for Commonweal, described her personal experience following a miscarriage, which she called “the precise moment” when she felt compelled to discuss the complexities of abortion in the United States.

Ms. Wilson O’Reilly said she needed emergency surgery to stop hemorrhaging, which she said ultimately saved her life. Procedures commonly used for abortions are also necessary following some miscarriages. For some women living in states that have banned abortion, access to such procedures has become difficult.

“The FDA acted unlawfully when it first approved, and later relaxed, safety requirements for prescribing and dispensing the drug,” Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said in a statement.

A group of women in Texas recently sued the state, arguing that the abortion ban there put their lives at risk. Procedures and medications associated with abortion are often routinely used following a miscarriage, and some doctors worry about running afoul of abortion bans. Penalties for doctors performing abortions in Texas include fines up to $100,000, loss of their medical licenses and prison sentences up to 99 years.

Speaking at the same event, Kimberly Lymore, director of the Tolton Program at Catholic Theological Union and a pastoral associate at a Chicago parish, said that the current debate around abortion rights has failed to consider robust ways to care for women and children.

“It’s one thing to get the baby born, but how do you care for that child?” Dr. Lymore asked.

Following the overturning of Roe, 13 states banned nearly all abortions, while five more states imposed restrictions ranging from six to 20 weeks. Most recently, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that would impose a six-week ban in Florida should that state’s supreme court rule on earlier abortion law.

In recent weeks, the battle over abortion focused on mifepristone, a drug used in more than half of all abortions in the United States and which can also be used following a miscarriage.

A federal judge in Texas ruled on April 7 that the Food and Drug Administration failed to properly vet mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortions in the United States since 2000. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk sided with the plaintiffs, who argued that the F.D.A. lacked the authority to approve the drug’s use and claimed that mailing the drug violated federal postal laws. Another federal judge, Thomas O. Rice, issued a divergent ruling, stating that the drug was safe and ordering the F.D.A. to maintain the status quo.

In recent weeks, the battle over abortion focused on mifepristone, a drug used in more than half of all abortions in the United States and which can also be used following a miscarriage.

A panel of three judges then rejected part of Judge Kacsmaryk’s ruling, saying that the drug could remain available while appeals play out. But the ruling upheld other parts of the Trump appointee’s decision, effectively reining in more recent actions by the F.D.A. that expanded access to the drug by allowing it to be delivered through the mail and allowing prescriptions by non-physicians.

A poll released Monday by NPR, conducted before the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday, found that a majority of Americans oppose banning abortion drugs, 64 percent to 35 percent. A majority of Republicans, 55 percent, oppose a ban.

Kristen Day, head of Democrats for Life, said that her group believes voters are not fully informed about specific regulations related to abortion and mifepristone.

“This unregulated abortion industry makes it more dangerous for people, and I think if people knew that, they would not support what the Biden administration was doing with this drug,” Ms. Day told America.

Kristen Day, head of Democrats for Life, said that her group believes voters are not fully informed about specific regulations related to abortion and mifepristone.

Pro-life advocates hailed the restrictions on mifepristone, which has been used in Europe since the 1980s, stating that the drug is dangerous.

“Our concern is taking a dangerous drug off the market,” Katie Glenn Daniel, State Policy Director at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, told America. A statement released by the group earlier this year pointed to studies from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, which found chemical abortions have higher complication rates than surgical abortions and that those who obtain chemical abortions face an increased risk of an emergency room visit.

An analysis by The New York Times of scientific studies conducted over the past 30 years concluded that medication abortions are generally safe for women.

But Ms. Glenn Daniel said that the pro-life community’s goal of banning mifepristone should not be viewed as the latest salvo in the culture wars but as a case “about trust in our public health institutions, and what level of care the F.D.A. owes to American citizens.”

Democrats for Life, Ms. Day said, also shares concerns with safety, but tightening restrictions on mifepristone, she added, gets closer to the organization’s goals, which includes supporting policies that provide more support for babies and their parents.

“We’re a pro-life organization. We want to see abortion banned completely,” Ms. Day said. “We don’t want women to feel like they have to have abortion.”

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, chair of the religious studies department at Manhattan College, said at the Faith in Public Life event that the law is “too blunt an instrument” to deal with the complexities of pregnancy and childbirth.

She said society fails to take seriously the lived experiences of women, especially in the debate about abortion.

“What is keeping us from trusting women when they are telling us over and over and over again that these decisions are complex and we need room for conscience and discernment?” asked Ms. Imperatori-Lee, who cited her medical experience following a miscarriage. “Women are moral agents.”

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