How the Supreme Court ruling that guarantees access to the abortion pill affects Latinas

The Supreme Court's refusal this Thursday to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone resolved for the moment the question of whether the widely used drug in the United States will continue to be available. The decision affects millions of women throughout the country, but especially Latinas.

Mifepristone is a safe and effective medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is now used in almost 60% of abortions in the United States, Dr. Daniel Grossman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Telemundo, explained to Noticias Telemundo. the University of California in San Francisco. This pill has been used for more than 20 years in the country, and the safety of its use is “extensively documented,” Grossman said, in more than 100 scientific and medical reports over the years.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the group of anti-abortion doctors who challenged the FDA's decisions to facilitate access to the pill lack standing to sue. Therefore, your complaint will be dismissed and The pill will continue to be accessible to women seeking to end a pregnancy safely and effectively.

“It's good news,” Grossman said, “I'm very pleased that patients will have access to a critical element of their health care.”

“But at the end of the day, the truth is that this decision should never have reached the Supreme Court,” lamented the specialist, who also sees patients at San Francisco General Hospital, and many of them are Latinas.

“I'm not a legal expert, but I am a medical expert, and I know that medically this case didn't make any sense,” because “it's not up to the courts to decide if a drug is safe and effective, but to health professionals.” “he explained.

“It should never have come into the hands of the Court,” agreed Ann Marie Benítez, senior director of Government Relations at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.

“It was a relief to see that the Court was able to see beyond the politics and lies, and agreed that it is safe and effective,” Benítez said in an interview with Noticias Telemundo.

“But it still causes harm,” he said, because “it causes fear and confusion in our community. It's part of the tactics of anti-abortion groups.”

Benítez explained that those who are most affected by misinformation around abortion and the puzzle of state laws that govern it are Latinas.

“They don't know where to go, they don't know if it's legal,” and all of this can make them delay the decision and put their health at greater risk, the expert explained.

Why does it affect Latinas so much?

Having access to the abortion pill is important especially for women who are in vulnerable situations and need more options to access this treatment.

Many Latinas have jobs considered “essential” (or even two or three) in which they cannot miss a day to go to a clinic because they could lose that job. In these cases, they may not have the means or the money to find someone to take care of their children (the majority of women who have abortions are already mothers).

Furthermore, if you are in a state that restricts abortion so much that there are no longer any clinics that provide it and you have to cross the border to another state, the more difficult it is to find the time and money to go to a medical center, and so, Getting the pill to end your pregnancy from home becomes essential.

Low-income people—adolescents, Latino or Black people, migrants, and refugees—are the most affected by abortion restrictions because they have the most difficulty paying, traveling, or stopping working, explains Amnesty International.

In the United States, dark-skinned women, often Latinas, are three to four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than white women, and this inequality is reinforced by laws that make it more dangerous to pregnancy, points out the human rights organization.

Benítez adds to this that within the Latino community there are women who are even more vulnerable, such as Afro-Latinas (who can be discriminated against in health centers) and women without a regular immigration status.

Latinos “have the highest rates of lack of health insurance, we tend to live in low-income areas, and when you can go to receive treatment it is more difficult, because the barriers to overcome are very high,” said Benítez.

That is also why another crucial component of this Thursday's decision by the Court is that it would also continue to be available for the pill can be prescribed via , that is, by call or video call with a medical professional. This would also make it easier for women to access if they cannot take time off from work or caring for their children to get to a clinic.

“Many patients have a strong preference for the pill because it is more private, they can do it in their own homesurrounded and supported by their family or friends, and they can schedule it when it suits them best,” said the expert, who also directs the Center for the Advancement of New Standards in Reproductive Health.

Grossman explains that many of her Latina patients in San Francisco are already familiar with the abortion pill because it has had broader use in Latin America, where the drug was first implemented, she said.

Recent polls show that communities such as Latinos and blacks support measures that provide greater access to abortion, and that they plan to vote in this November's elections in favor of them, Benítez said. “They are the ones who are hit hardest by these restrictions.”

Women's rights and abortion combined are top issues for 31% of Black women and 34% of Latina women, according to a survey from May of this year by a coalition of reproductive justice organizations.

For Grossman this is a ray of hope after the Court's decision almost two years ago to repeal the right to abortion that was enshrined under Roe v. Wade. That historic 2022 ruling unleashed almost exception-free bans in many Southern states (some with large Latino populations like Florida and Texas), which have caused a health crisis for women ever since.

Restrictions continue to affect those who require an emergency abortion

However, today's ruling is not the solution to the problems in access to reproductive health that now plague the country, since the pill can only be used up to 10 weeks of pregnancy and leaves women who must seek an emergency abortion to save their lives or prevent serious or permanent damage to their health.

Studies show that at least a third of pregnancies involve emergency room visits, and up to 15% include life-threatening conditions. Pregnant women and their families suffer lifelong consequences from not receiving the emergency abortion care they need, disproportionately harming Black, Latina and Indigenous women, according to a Kaiser Foundation study.

And while the Court's decision maintains the availability of mifepristone, legal experts say other groups or individuals could try to file another lawsuit on similar terms.

“It's a victory that the status quo is preserved, but it doesn't indicate that these are now dead arguments that others are not going to try to follow,” Temple University law professor Rachel Rebouche told .

Access to the drug depends largely on the laws of the state where the patient lives and, in the case of those that prohibit or restrict mifepristone, on the measures they are willing to take to circumvent them.

Nearly half of U.S. states allow online prescribing and mail-order delivery of mifepristone, according to FDA guidelines and labeling for the drug.

Currently, 14 states impose abortion bans at all stages of pregnancy. Another dozen states have laws that specifically limit how mifepristone can be prescribed, such as requiring an in-person visit to a doctor or separate counseling about the drug's possible risks and drawbacks.

Those measures are not supported by major medical societies, including the American Medical Association.