If the FDA ignores or rejects the petition, as is anticipated, the group College students for Lifetime of America plans to sue the company with the conservative authorized powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom, whose attorneys helped draft and defend the Mississippi anti-abortion legislation that finally toppled Roe v. Wade.
The brand new push is the fruits of years of brainstorming round how you can limit entry to the drugs — notably since their use surged following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the FDA’s ruling in 2021 that they’re protected to take at residence with no physician current.
“We knew chemical abortion was the longer term even earlier than Dobbs occurred,” stated Kristi Hamrick, the chief coverage strategist for College students for Life, who known as her group’s environmental focus “the subsequent innovation in ending the usage of this broken device of abortion.”
Whereas they deride the tactic, abortion-rights advocates worry the wastewater arguments might have a chilling impact even in states the place abortion stays authorized — making medical doctors hesitant to prescribe the drugs and sufferers afraid to hunt them.
“It’s a reasonably egregious argument that basically shamelessly co-opts the environmental motion for their very own agenda,” stated Jenny Ma, a senior counsel on the Heart for Reproductive Rights who has argued instances associated to abortion drugs. “Not solely are they not citing precise science right here however they’re making an attempt to disgrace and stigmatize abortion and separate it from different medical care.”
College students for Life — which has labored intently with the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers on anti-abortion insurance policies, has lively chapters on a whole lot of campuses throughout the nation and sponsored get-out-the-vote work in 33 states within the midterms — stated the petition is only one a part of a nationwide technique.
The group is engaged on payments to implement the medical waste requirement with Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) and different members of the incoming GOP Home majority in addition to state lawmakers in Arizona, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wyoming.
With Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society president who has been influential in placing extra conservative judges on the bench, co-chairing its board, College students for Life can also be pushing conservative state attorneys normal to carry enforcement actions in opposition to medical doctors and abortion capsule producers, and is planning a tour of school campuses to advocate on the problem.
Ought to they prevail in any jurisdiction, the principles could be so burdensome that use of the medicine could possibly be successfully minimize off, a number of teams representing abortion suppliers instructed POLITICO. And even when they’re unsuccessful in court docket, the hassle goals to sway public opinion at a time voters have turn out to be more and more accepting of abortions early in being pregnant.
“It’s laborious for me to think about even a Trump-friendly decide going for an argument about wastewater regulation, however you by no means know. Anytime you cope with abortion, judges get bizarre,” stated Mary Ziegler, a legislation professor on the College of California, Davis and creator of “Abortion and the Legislation in America.” “And we all know that the extra the anti-abortion motion can get folks to consider fetal stays and different concrete particulars about what abortion entails, the extra uncomfortable Individuals turn out to be. So, it could possibly be useful for them even when it doesn’t go anyplace legally.”
The group’s FDA petition argues that the excessive variety of folks utilizing drugs to terminate pregnancies at residence and flushing fetal stays down the bathroom — which has elevated partly because of the identical group’s efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and limit entry to surgical abortions — poses dangers to the surroundings.
It claims with out direct proof that hint quantities of the drug in wastewater might threaten livestock and wildlife in addition to people, citing some research wherein the drug was given on to animals somewhat than ingested from groundwater, and others the place medicine flushed instantly down the bathroom contaminated the water provide.
“Pharmaceutical contamination of water is a critical difficulty that may have critical impacts on the surroundings, however making an attempt to say that one drug out of 1000’s is having an outsized impact relies on ideology not proof,” stated Nathan Donley, the Environmental Well being Science director for the Heart for Organic Variety, who has written citizen petitions to the FDA. “Of all of the medicine and artificial chemical compounds we shed that may probably contaminate water, abortifacients are a fraction of a fraction of a %. It’s nothing.”
Additionally referenced repeatedly within the petition are research concerning the environmental influence of hormonal contraception, main some consultants to ask whether or not conservative teams will apply the technique to different medicine sooner or later.
“It looks like they’re laying the groundwork for contemplating contraception itself as medical waste,” stated Susan Wooden, the previous FDA assistant commissioner for Ladies’s Well being and a professor of well being coverage at George Washington College.
Hamrick insisted the group’s work “is confined to abortion-inducing medicine” and that it solely cited research of contraception to argue that it’s additionally value learning the influence of abortion drugs on “aquatic and animal life, in addition to the meals provide.”
The petition acknowledges that the FDA did look at the potential environmental impacts of abortion drugs when it first weighed approval, quoting a 1996 report wherein “the Heart for Drug Analysis and Analysis has concluded that the product might be manufactured, used, and disposed of with none anticipated adversarial environmental results.” However College students for Life argued this examine is insufficient and outdated, and additional testing is warranted. The group additionally demanded the company require that sufferers who take the drugs place the fetal stays in a medical waste “catch package” and return them to the medical supplier.
A spokesperson for the FDA instructed POLITICO the company is “conscious of the petition and can reply on to the petitioner,” and declined to remark additional.
Citizen petitions are a device utilized by either side of the decades-long struggle over abortion and contraception, and a few have led to modifications in FDA coverage. One pending at the agency from the Heart for Reproductive Rights, the American Medical Affiliation and different teams, for instance, is asking the company to loosen guidelines round abortion drugs to make them extra accessible for sufferers experiencing a miscarriage.
Zachary Kester, the overall counsel for College students for Life and creator of the petition, stated whereas he and different anti-abortion advocates contemplate the FDA “floor zero” for his or her efforts, they’re additionally pursuing different avenues.
“We’re speaking with legal professionals across the nation about totally different methods, and speaking to state regulators to establish a path ahead,” he stated.
Ought to a authorized problem primarily based on its arguments about abortion drugs make it as much as the U.S. Supreme Court docket, the group might discover a receptive viewers.
“The court docket has not proven itself prone to defer to the federal businesses,” Ziegler famous. “You’re working with a court docket [that] is skeptical concerning the administrative state in a method which may be useful to them.”
On the identical time, the group can also be pushing members of the incoming Home GOP majority to make use of the appropriations course of to power the FDA to conduct environmental research. They’re additionally working with state lawmakers like Ohio Republican Rep. Jena Powell and federal lawmakers like Good on payments to introduce subsequent 12 months to impose a medical waste requirement on abortion capsule use.
In a press release to POLITICO, Good known as the flushing of fetal stays “reckless” and a “disgusting follow.”
With Democrats nonetheless in command of the Senate and White Home, the hassle isn’t prone to change federal legislation. However College students for Life is hoping to realize traction in GOP-controlled states and affect the general public’s views on abortion drugs because the medicine have gotten extra socially acceptable and state efforts to ban them have confirmed unattainable to implement.
“For these not involved about chemical abortion drugs for his or her harms to the preborn and to girls, maybe they’ll be fearful about what’s within the water,” Hamrick stated.