Maine’s attorney general has joined his counterparts in 21 other states urging a federal judge known for his anti-abortion views to reject a lawsuit challenging the use of the most common method of ending an unwanted pregnancy in Maine.

The suit, filed in Texas, seeks to revoke the federal Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs in a prescription used in more than half of all U.S. abortions. Such a ruling would outlaw the drug in states where abortion has remained legal following a Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed states to further restrict abortions.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey Press Herald photo

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey on Friday signed on to a brief submitted by 22 attorneys general that says withdrawing FDA approval for the drug would drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management. If the suit succeeds, abortion providers would be forced to use a less effective means of medication abortion.

Frey called the suit part of a “concerted, years-long effort to chip away at access to reproductive care” and the challenge to the FDA’s approval of mifepristone “an outrageous imposition on the freedom of Mainers to make medical decisions about their own bodies, their lives and their futures.”

Mifepristone was approved by the FDA in 2000 as a single-dose oral medication used for early-term abortions. It has since been used by about 5 million women to terminate a pregnancy. Frey said decades of clinical research have proven that mifepristone is safe and effective.

In Maine, the preference for using mifepristone in medical abortions is higher than it is nationally. Two-thirds of all abortions at two of Maine’s three abortion clinics – Maine Family Planning in Augusta and Planned Parenthood in Portland – are medication abortions. At Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor, half the abortions performed are medication procedures.


Maine’s three abortion providers say they will change their medication regimen if the Texas judge rules against the FDA and they are barred from prescribing mifepristone, which blocks the production of progesterone and stops a pregnancy from continuing.

Instead, Maine clinicians will prescribe only misoprostol, the second drug used in current medication abortion protocol, which causes the uterus to empty. But Nicole Clegg, chief strategy and impact officer for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said the misoprostol-only medication abortion is slightly less effective, with a success rate of 84% to 89% compared to 95% to 99% for the two-drug regimen.

The use of medication abortions is considered critical to providing access to abortions in low-income, underserved and rural communities. The filing by the attorneys general said that without mifepristone, demand for procedural abortions would increase, leading to overburdened clinics, longer wait times and later and riskier procedures.

A ruling in the suit had been expected as early as Friday, but the judge extended a deadline to Feb. 24, meaning the ruling won’t come for another two weeks. The judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, was appointed by former President Donald Trump and observers say he has issued a string of conservative rulings since taking the bench.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: