'This is a powerful weapon': If abortion pill is banned in U.S., Canada could see deep, disturbing impact

At the heart of the potential ban of Mifepristone, an abortion pill drug used for decades, is the idea that is unsafe

A major legal decision is expected to be revealed on Friday in Texas, which could further impact access to abortion for millions of Americans.

A federal district judge is set to rule on a lawsuit filed in November by a coalition of anti-choice medical professionals, who incorporated themselves as a non-profit under the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

The lawsuit challenges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Mifepristone, known as the "abortion pill", back in 2000. It says the FDA overstepped its role, which could lead to the outright ban of the usage of the drug if the judge holds this position. Many are bracing themselves for Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to rule in favour of the lawsuit. He had previously worked at a conservative Christian legal group.

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A ruling in favour of the lawsuit would effectively mean a ban on abortion pills in the U.S., even making them illegal to be used by a health care professional. While this would undoubtedly have an impact on many people who are able to get pregnant in the U.S., it could also have an effect on Canadians.

Frederique Chabot is the director of health promotion at Action Canada, a pro-choice charity organization. She says they’re closely following anti-choice organizations in the U.S. because their tactics are effectively restricting access to abortion there, despite the fact that it’s an unpopular position.

“They’re using judicial and democratic decisions to successfully do that,” she tells Yahoo News Canada. “Any kind of retrogression on reproductive rights has an impact globally in the sense that we’re seeing human rights chipped away.”

She says the practical implications the lawsuit could have is to sow doubts around the safety profile of Mifepristone, which has been used in 60 countries for over 30 years.

At the heart of their argument is that the FDA overreached because they didn’t do proper due diligence in ensuring this is a safe drug for people using it and that is ludicrous. This is not supported by evidence. In the U.S. alone there’s over 20 years of usage of Mifepristone, there’s millions of doses that have been administered, there's a lot of documented evidence of real world usage.Frederique Chabot, Director of health promotion at Action Canada

She fears that if there’s a court case in the U.S. that shows the FDA should not have approved the drug, then it’ll be revoked on the basis that it’s unsafe. People who aren’t aware of the context or the goals of these organizations have the potential to be fuelled by disinformation about abortion and the safety of these drugs.

“You sow doubt and that can inspire lawmakers in other countries, including Canada,” says Chabot. “This can make people afraid of the drug. This is a powerful weapon from the anti-choice organizations doing this.”

Mifepristone was approved in Canada in 2015. It has been on the market since 2017 and is a widely used method of abortion across the country. Chabot says that over 55 per cent of abortions in the U.S. are done using Mifepristone, and it’s especially important for people who aren’t able to travel to clinics, as it’s often distributed through the mail.

“In a place with geographical barriers, where people have to travel to a clinic and don’t have the capacity to do that financially or otherwise, medical abortion is what permits abortion,” she says.

Chabot stresses that abortion is a very common medical procedure, and that one in three people in Canada who can be pregnant will have an abortion in their lifetime.

“It’s common, it’s not out of the norm, it’s very safe,” she says. “It’s much safer than childbirth. Mifepristone has an incredible safety profile worldwide. We are seeing here how powerful disinformation can be about a very normal healthcare procedure.”