Attorney General William Tong and Gov. Ned Lamont Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Connecticut joined a coalition of 21 other states last week in filing an amicus brief defending the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of an abortion pill called mifepristone against a legal challenge in a Texas federal court. 

Attorney General William Tong announced the brief in a press release on Friday. The case stems from an abortion-opposed group called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which sued the FDA in November, arguing that the federal government’s decades-old approval of abortion pills hinged on a decision to classify pregnancy as an illness and the pills as a therapeutic medicine.

“But pregnancy is not an illness, nor do chemical abortion drugs provide a therapeutic benefit over surgical abortion,” lawyers for the group wrote in the complaint. “In asserting these transparently false conclusions, the FDA exceeded its regulatory authority to approve the drugs.”

The group has asked a federal court judge in the Northern District of Texas to take the unusual step of reversing the FDA’s approval of a drug, making it illegal. 

In their amicus brief, Connecticut and other states argued that such a decision could have dangerous consequences for women across the country. Those risks have been compounded in light of last year’s Supreme Court’s ruling which overturned a long-standing legal right to abortion. Since then, many states have moved to enact restrictions or outright bans on abortions, the states argued in the brief. 

Banning mifepristone would also impact women who experience miscarriages because doctors often prescribe it as one of two drugs used together to help manage miscarriages. 

“The resulting delays and denials of care have already led to dire health outcomes for women, including being forced to forgo cancer treatment, developing sepsis, being left bleeding for days after incomplete miscarriage, enduring risk of rupture due to ectopic pregnancy, and being forced to continue carrying a fetus that was nonviable,” the attorneys general wrote. 

Medication abortion accounts for more than half all abortions performed in the U.S., according to a study published last year by the Guttmacher Institute using statistics from 2020. 

In Friday’s press release, Tong called the lawsuit “reckless” and said that mifepristone had been safely used for more than two decades.

“This lawsuit is one more radical effort to reject science and inject partisan politics into the doctor-patient relationship,” Tong said. “The ban this group is seeking would impact every state—including Connecticut—and would force women who choose to end their pregnancies into unnecessary surgical procedures.”

Gretchen Raffa, vice president of public policy, advocacy, and organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said the case could compromise Connecticut’s efforts to protect abortion rights in the wake of last year’s Supreme Court decision. 

“This case has nothing to do with patient safety and everything to do with anti-abortion rights activists and politicians who are actively working to dismantle sexual and reproductive health care across the country,” Raffa said.

Last year, Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation meant to shield patients and doctors who elect to conduct the procedure in Connecticut from legal action by states where abortion has been made illegal. The law also added certified APRNs and physician assistants to the providers allowed to perform aspiration abortions, the most common type of in-clinic abortion.

In addition to Connecticut, states that have signed on to the brief defending the FDA’s approval of mifepristone include California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, a coalition of states opposed medication abortions have also filed an amicus brief arguing in favor of reversing the FDA’s decision. Those states include  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.

“Even if the FDA’s approval of mifepristone harmonized with the agency’s own regulations and federal criminal law, those actions would not simply displace state laws regarding abortion,” the attorneys general wrote. “The amici States are entitled to enforce their duly enacted laws regulating chemical abortion in the interests of life, health, and safety.”