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How the Ohio Court Decision on RU-486 Set Back the Clock on Fifteen Years of Medicine

Written for by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson.

In 2004, the Ohio legislature passed a law barring use of RU-486, the combination drug used for early termination of pregnancy, unless it was prescribed strictly in accordance with official labeling by the Food and Drug Administration. The law never went into effect because of an injunction immediately sought and won by Planned Parenthood of Ohio and partner organizations in a suit claiming the law was unconstitutionally vague, lacked an exception to protect patients' lives and health, and created undue burdens on a woman's right to access abortion care by limiting their options and forcing many to undergo surgical abortion rather than early medication abortion.

After remaining under injunction as it wended its way through court for the past seven years, the case came before Ohio Federal District Court Judge Susan Dlott, who vacated the injunction and set the stage for enforcement of the law.

Both the law and the court's decision ignore the medical and scientific evidence regarding safety of RU-486 and create a different standard for clinical delivery of an abortion drug than for other drugs approved by the FDA.  As a result, fewer women in the state seeking to end an unwanted and untenable pregnancy will be able to access RU-486 for early termination and will instead be forced to undergo surgical abortion instead. Moreover, those whose doctors can and do prescribe RU-486 will have to pay more, in some cases three times as much, for the drug: "Strict adherence" to the FDA labeling standards ironically requires administration of much higher doses of mifepristone than data collected since the original FDA approval show to be necessary and effective for inducing abortion.

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