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Hochul: State will stockpile medication abortion drug

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at a virtual meeting of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York to address recent court rulings limiting access to medication abortions.
Mike Groll
/
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks Tuesday, April 11, 2023, at a virtual meeting of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York to address recent court rulings limiting access to medication abortions.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that New York is creating a stockpile of the medication abortion drug misoprostol after a Texas judge’s recent ruling that outlaws a different medicine used to induce abortion.

Hochul, speaking at a virtual meeting of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, decried recent court decisions limiting reproductive rights. Those include the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last June, which overturned the 50-year-old landmark abortion rights decision Roe v. Wade, and last Friday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk that outlawed mifepristone, a commonly used abortion medication.

“We are right now facing historic, horrific setbacks,” Hochul said.

The governor said Kacsmaryk’s ruling ignores decades of scientific data showing that the drug is safe and effective. She said it also undermines the credibility of the federal Food and Drug Administration, which for two decades has authorized the drug to be used off-label for abortions.

Medication abortions are still possible using misoprostol, which is commonly paired with mifepristone.

Hochul, anticipating further threats to abortion rights, said the state will collect and reserve a five-year supply of 150,000 doses of misoprostol.

“New York state will create a stockpile of misoprostol,” Hochul said. “Extremist judges have made it clear that they won’t stop at any one particular drug or service. So it’s going to ensure that New Yorkers will continue to have access to medication abortion no matter what.”

Misoprostol can be used by itself to induce abortion, but it is less effective, and in some cases can lead to complications like bleeding, infection, and damage to the uterus.

The governor said she will also work with the Legislature to pass a law to require that private insurers cover misoprostol when it's prescribed off-label for abortion. The measure would also ensure that no provider is charged more for medical malpractice insurance or denied coverage if they prescribe the drug.

State Attorney General Tish James also spoke to the group, saying she’s filed an amicus brief in the Biden administration’s appeal of Kacsmaryk’s decision. The federal Department of Justice is seeking a stay of the ruling until all legal appeals are concluded.

“In New York, we will not be bullied by right-wing ideologues,” James said.

On the same day of the Texas ruling, a federal judge in Washington state ruled that the FDA cannot act to limit the use of mifepristone for abortions. U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice’s decision covers 17 states and the District of Columbia, but New York is not among them.

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York President Wendy Stark said her organization will continue to provide medication abortions using misoprostol, as well as offering clinical abortions.

“Abortion is health care, and it is still your legal right in New York state,” Stark said.

Kacsmaryk’s ruling is due to take effect this Friday.

Planned Parenthood officials were asked if they might continue to prescribe both drugs for medication abortions, as long as they still have supplies of mifepristone in stock. They said they could not comment on that possibility.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.