Gov. McKee offers reassurance on continued access to abortion pill

Despite federal court ruling in Texas, protections remain in place to ensure mifepristone remains available

By: - April 18, 2023 4:38 pm

The FDA approved mifepristone under the brand-name Mifeprex in 2000, and an abortion-drug regimen that has seen few deaths and a low rate of adverse events in more than two decades of use. (Photo by Peter Dazeley/Getty Images)

Gov. Dan McKee and state health officials Monday reassured Rhode Islanders that access to mifepristone will continue here despite a recent ruling by a federal judge in Texas who said the Food and Drug Administration should not have approved the abortion pill.

“The State of Rhode Island is fortunate to have strong protections in place for reproductive freedom that other states may not have,” McKee said in a press release. “Despite the federal court ruling in Texas, access to safe reproductive health care like Mifepristone remains legal in Rhode Island.

“Here in Rhode Island, our Administration is working to ensure continued access to care, which is available through ample supply of medication and surgical means.”

The announcement came the same day the Rhode Island Department of Health issued a provider advisory observing the status quo.

“There should be no change in clinical practice for the prescribing, dispensing, and administration of Mifepristone, or any other reproductive health medication, in Rhode Island at this time,” the advisory read.

The announcements happened more than two weeks after Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled April 7 that the FDA improperly approved mifepristone in 2000 and issued an injunction pausing the drug’s approval nationwide. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals stayed that injunction in a ruling on April 12.

McKee said he directed the Rhode Island Department of Health to reach out to health care facilities in Rhode Island last week to gauge the quantity of the drug and determined “there is a sufficient amount.”

Here in Rhode Island, our Administration is working to ensure continued access to care, which is available through ample supply of medication and surgical means.

– Gov. Dan McKee

McKee added that the Department of Health will continue to monitor the state’s mifepristone supply. 

McKee said the Executive Office of Health and Human Services also contacted Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, UnitedHealthcare of New England, and Tufts Health Public Plans “to ensure continued access to Mifepristone” under Medicaid’s current rules and regulations.

Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island, the advocacy wing of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, praised the governor’s efforts.

“Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island applauds Governor McKee and his administration for taking action to protect access to medication abortion in Rhode Island,” said Gretchen Raffa, the organization’s vice president of Public Policy, Advocacy, and Organizing.

“[Planned Parenthood Votes! Rhode Island] will continue to do everything possible to ensure that patients can make their own personal private medical decisions with as few barriers as possible.”

The 2019 Reproductive Privacy Act codified the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. That decision made abortion care an issue to be decided at the state level.

The state is looking to further codify those protections with the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage Act, sponsored Rep. Katherine Kazarian of East Providence. If signed into law, it will provide for abortion coverage in medicaid programs and repeal abortion coverage exclusion on state employee health plans.

The bill will go before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

McKee said the Executive Office of Health and Human Services will continue to maintain healthcare providers abreast of news as the case advances.  

“My team will continue to stay connected with the Biden Administration and the coalition of Governors focused on protecting these rights,” he said. 

The Rhode Island Right to Life Coalition declined a request for comment.


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Kevin G. Andrade
Kevin G. Andrade

Kevin G. Andrade previously covered education, housing and human services for Rhode Island Current.