The latest judicial and administrative decisions on abortion access have changed little for patients in Oregon.
The abortion pill is still available in the state as advocates and state officials closely watch the latest court battles unfold.
“No operational changes have taken place, as of today,” said Kristi Scdoris, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, one of the state’s largest providers. “Abortion is still legal in Oregon and Washington, and we are still providing the full range of health care services to our patients.”
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette is not stockpiling abortion pills as authorities in Washington and California are, and its clinics continue to offer surgical and medication abortions.
And the nonprofit, which offers surgical and medication abortions at its clinics in Portland, Bend and Salem, is not fielding calls from anxious women, worried about abortion access.
“Access to our services has not changed,” Scdoris said.
Her comments followed a decision by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana late Wednesday that partially blocked a decision by a Texas judge rescinding federal approval of the abortion pill, mifepristone. The circuit court said that the statute of limitations had passed on overturning the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the pill. But it upheld part of the Texas ruling, overturning the FDA’s 2016 updated instructions that allowed mifepristone to be mailed and used up to 10 weeks of pregnancy instead of seven.
The U.S. Justice Department entered the fray on Thursday, saying it would appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June overturned Roe v. Wade, upending abortion rights.
The Texas and Louisiana decisions are complicated by a Washington state case, brought by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, her Washington counterpart, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and other Democratic attorneys general and the District of Columbia against the FDA for excessively regulating mifepristone. The Washington state judge said last Friday, the day the Texas ruling came out, that the FDA had to keep mifepristone available in the District of Columbia and the states that had brought the suit.
“Thankfully, we have a key ruling by Judge Rice, which clarifies that in Oregon, mifepristone remains totally legal and patients will still be able to have a prescription filled by a certified pharmacy, including through the mail,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement on Thursday. “Our coalition will continue to fight for and protect access to abortion medications, which have been used safely for 23 years.”
She said Oregon will not require multiple visits to a doctor’s office to obtain a prescription. Patients can talk to a provider through a telemedicine appointment and get their medication in the mail, which she said was often the preferred method, especially in rural areas.
Abortion rights providers and activists along with medical professionals, pharmaceutical executives and others have condemned the Texas ruling.
“No court has ever ordered the FDA to take a medication off the market because of their own judgment about the safety of the medication,” Scdoris told the Capital Chronicle on Thursday. “If allowed to take effect, the ruling could devastate the ability of patients to access the drug for medication abortion and miscarriage care nationwide – even in states where abortion remains legal – and disrupt the FDA’s process for approving essential drugs.”
She and others say the case isn’t about the safety of mifepristone – but marks an attempt by anti-abortion activists to use the courts to enact a nationwide abortion ban.
“If allowed to stand, the consequences of this disastrous ruling will fall most on those who are disproportionately affected by abortion bans: Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, people with low incomes, immigrants and those living in rural communities,” Scdoris said.
The number of abortions since the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has dropped nationwide, according to a recent report by the Society of Family Planning. But the number of procedures in Oregon and other states that protect abortion rights has increased.
Scdoris said the demand for abortions from Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette has jumped about 6% since June. Last fiscal year, the organization performed 2,611 abortions. That compares with 3,276 from last July to January, Scdoris said.
Medication is used for 70% of its abortions.
By Lynne Terry of Oregon Capital Chronicle