Ohio AG Dave Yost errs in joining fight to stop abortion pills | Michael Douglas

Retired Editorial Page Editor Michael Douglas.
Retired Editorial Page Editor Michael Douglas.

Those Ohioans seeking to ensure access to abortion have moved quickly, and good thing. They want to place a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. The change declares that “every individual has a right to make and carry out one’s own reproductive decisions.”

The ballot language has won initial approval. Once the Ohio Ballot Board completes its assessment, the way will open to collecting petition signatures, more than 400,000 required.

Other states have advanced on this front, notably Kansas voters reaffirming reproductive rights. All of this comes in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the court neglecting five decades of precedent upon which women relied for privacy and equality.

Abortion in Ohio: What does proposed constitutional amendment say?

There also is a need for urgency. The high court decision has generated real and troubling consequences, something Jessica Valenti has tracked in her newsletter, Abortion, Every Day. She writes about the damage done, from a distraught cancer patient denied an abortion to a woman left bleeding for more than 10 days after an incomplete miscarriage.

At the lead, in Ohio and elsewhere, are doctors and other medical workers citing the suffering and stressing action now.

The situation too easily could get worse.

Consider the lawsuit launched by abortion opponents designed to thwart medication abortion, the most common method for terminating a pregnancy, a two-pill regimen that is safe, effective, more accessible and less costly. The lawsuit calls for reversing federal Food and Drug Administration approval of the first drug, mifepristone, and thus ending medication abortion nationwide.

As I write, the judge has not ruled. Yet the deck appears stacked. Abortion opponents looked for a favorable judge, and they found him in Amarillo, Texas, where he sits alone. A Trump appointee, Matthew Kacsmaryk, is an ideological soulmate of the far right.

Just as vexing as one federal judge on the cusp of such an unprecedented step are those cheering for him to do so. The crowd includes Dave Yost, the Ohio attorney general who joined nearly two dozen other Republican state attorneys general in a friend-of-the-court brief.

Yost and colleagues rally to the side of the plaintiffs. In doing so, they embrace arguments of little merit, pushing conjecture to the point of a shoddiness far from the standards expected of their offices.

The brief goes back to 2000, when the FDA first approved mifepristone. The Republican attorneys general contend the agency followed the wrong regulatory path in assessing the drug, arguing the section of the law “does not permit the agency to greenlight elective abortions on a wide scale.”

The suggestion is that the FDA somehow went easy on the maker of mifepristone. Yet the agency rejected the application twice. It added a clinical trial and set restrictions on the distribution. It took the regulatory path that allowed for such conditions. Since approval, the agency has conducted peer-reviewed, scientific analyses.

The Government Accountability Office found the FDA process consistent with the evaluation of other drugs.

Michael Douglas: Accurate African-American history courses critical for our country's success

The attorneys general also argue that in permitting delivery by mail of the abortion drugs, the agency violates federal law. The attorneys general echoed this claim in a recent letter to Walgreens and CVS threatening repercussions if the pharmacies mail the drugs to customers.

The law the attorneys general have in mind dates to 1873. Legal analysts note that federal courts have held that to violate the law, a sender must know the recipient intends to use the materials illegally. That makes sense, especially when the drugs, as in this case, are used to treat multiple conditions.

More, Congress has amended the law in the past, but it hasn’t done so in response to where federal courts have stood. Thus, it follows that the Justice Department recently concluded the Postal Service may deliver the pills.

Most outlandish, perhaps, is the claim of abortion opponents and allies the drugs are unsafe. The country has nearly a quarter-century of experience with medication abortion. Given the intense scrutiny, evidence of big trouble surely would surface. Yet a 2016 FDA review found severe complications very rare, for instance, hospitalization in 0.7 percent of cases and hemorrhaging in 0.1 percent.

The numbers reveal medication abortion safer than penicillin, and 14 times safer than childbirth, the United States with dismayingly high maternal and infant mortality rates compared to peer countries.

A poll conducted last fall found 59% of registered voters in Ohio support amending the state constitution to ensure a right to abortion in the framework of the Roe decision. For his part, Dave Yost missed in the mark when skeptical about reports of a raped and pregnant 10-year-old girl leaving the state to get an abortion. Now, in backing this ill-conceived lawsuit, he reinforces the case for urgent action.

Douglas was the Beacon Journal editorial page editor from 1999 to 2019. He can be reached at mddouglasmm@gmail.com.

Michael Douglas: Frank LaRose's misguided agenda seeks to expand Republican power, not serve Ohioans

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Ohio AG Dave Yost errs in joining fight to stop abortion pills