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Maryland buys two-and-a-half-years-worth of abortion pill in case of nationwide ban

Mifepristone is part of a two-drug protocol that a recent study showed was used in 98% of medication abortions in 2020.
Allen G. Breed
Mifepristone is part of a two-drug protocol that a recent study showed was used in 98% of medication abortions in 2020.

Maryland is in possession of two-and-a-half-years-worth of a widely used abortion drug that it decided to stockpile after fears that the medication would be hard to come by due to possible legal battles.

The state decided to stockpile mifepristone back in April after a federal judge in Texas temporarily stopped the use of the drug, stating the Food and Drug Administration improperly approved it 23 years ago.

Gov. Wes Moore announced that the Maryland Department of Health in conjunction with the University of Maryland Medical Center would work to procure a large quantity of the medication in case it became unavailable on the market.

“We made that decision [to store two-and-a half-years-worth of the drug] based on both how we do stockpiles in general, and also expiration dates of the medications,” Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, MDH’s deputy secretary for public health services, told WYPR. “We believe that will give us enough time if the landscape changes on us to be able to provide that medication while we look for more than two- or three-year solutions.”

Maryland spent about $1.2 million dollars on the stockpile and is using state funds from the Board of Public Works to cover the cost.

“It's the standard of care for medical abortions,” Kalyanaraman said. “We want to make sure that women in the state of Maryland, and women from other states as well when they come to Maryland, have access to basic health care needs.”

Mifepristone is a progesterone blocker that can end pregnancies under 10 weeks. The drug was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 and is prescribed in more than 60 countries. It is used for about half of all abortions in the United States and for miscarriage management, according to the FDA.

The Biden administration submitted an emergency appeal to the court to restore access to the drug after the Texas judge’s ruling. The Supreme Court issued a stay on the use of the drug while its fate is being decided in the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The ruling suspending the drug’s approval was met with outrage by many Maryland officials.

“Mifepristone is safe and effective and will remain accessible in Maryland. I applaud the Moore-Miller Administration for ensuring recent decisions will not impact abortion access in Maryland,” said U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a Democrat who represents District 3. “These extremist judges attacking medication abortion cannot overrule the rights of Marylanders to make their own decisions about their health and futures.”

Maryland Department of Health Secretary Laura Herrera Scott added that the drug is important to reproductive health.

“Losing access to this medication will lead to poor health outcomes for women,” Herrera Scott said. “The Maryland Department of Health is working closely with the Moore-Miller administration and is proud to protect the reproductive rights of Marylanders, and we will continue to do so.”

Scott is the Health Reporter for WYPR. @smaucionewypr
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