NC Gov. Roy Cooper, AG Josh Stein sign on to Supreme Court briefs aimed at protecting reproductive freedoms

NC Gov. Roy Cooper, AG Josh Stein sign on to Supreme Court briefs aimed at protecting reproductive freedoms

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein are continuing the fight to protect reproductive rights in North Carolina and the U.S. with their latest actions.

On Jan. 30, Cooper, along with 21 other governors, joined the Reproductive Freedom Alliance in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court that requests the justices act to preserve access to mifepristone, an FDA-approved medication for abortion, NC Newsline reported.

On Jan. 31, Stein filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to protect access to mifepristone. Stein and a multi-state coalition of 24 attorneys general filed the brief in support of the FDA and Danco Laboratories LLC’s efforts to reverse a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruling that reinstated certain medically unnecessary restrictions on the medication abortion drug mifepristone, according to a release from Stein’s office.

“No woman should ever have to worry about whether she can get the medication she needs,” said Stein. “I will continue to do everything in my power to stand up for women’s reproductive freedoms.”

Mifepristone received FDA approval in 2000 and currently accounts for more than half of abortions in the U.S. when used with another drug, misoprostol. Doctors often use these two drugs following a patient’s miscarriage.

According to research, medication abortion is highly effective and rarely results in any complications, which has made it very popular among patients and doctors. Looking at North Carolina’s data, medication abortions accounted for around 23% of abortions in the state in 2011 – and by 2020, that number was 59%.

“More than five million people have used this safe, effective medication since the FDA approved it and this case is an extremist, political attempt to take away women’s freedom to make their own private medical decisions,” Cooper said in a press release. “I urge the Supreme Court to protect women’s health and overturn the Fifth Circuit’s terrible decision.”

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in the case on March 26 and their decision could end up seriously restricting access to the drug, which is not only used for abortions but for miscarriage care, as well. These restrictions will have dangerous consequences for reproductive health care – especially in underserved communities, such as North Carolina’s rural areas.

Believe it or not, more than 33% of North Carolina’s rural hospitals don’t offer any maternity care whatsoever, according to Axios. That number is a staggering 55% when looking at rural hospitals nationwide.

Hospitals have been scaling back maternity services, or cutting them entirely, often for financial reasons. On its own, this would be bad news. Still, combined with the fact that demand for obstetrics care is on the rise as more states ban abortion, this is setting up to be a potential medical disaster for women in rural areas across America.

According to a new report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, patients in rural North Carolina have to spend a median of 32 minutes traveling to get to a hospital that provides obstetric care. Much like in emergency care, minutes matter in labor and delivery, too. Mothers and babies in areas without obstetric care have a higher risk of death and complications, and they’re less likely to get adequate prenatal and postpartum care, the report showed.

More than 200 U.S. rural hospitals have stopped delivering babies in the last 10 years, according to the latest data.

Patrick Zarcone

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