CHICAGO -- It's known as the abortion pill, but Dr. Mia Norlin says mifepristone is much more than that. The Chicago obstetrician-gynecologist says her practice prescribes the medication several times a week for miscarriages.
"It's as safe as it comes in terms of helping people manage an elective abortion or a miscarriage," Dr. Norlin said.
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Safety is part of the reasoning behind an Amarillo, Texas federal judge's ruling to suspend the Food and Drug Administration's longtime approval of the drug. It's a decision strongly supported by the anti-abortion rights legal organization The Thomas More Society.
"This particular drug was something that approval was not done appropriately in the same way that approvals are done for regular medications," said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society.
But the scientific community disagrees. Dr. Norlin said mifepristone has been used safely in her practice for 20 years. In addition, Norlin said it is the most regulated drug she prescribes: a patient must sign an agreement form and take it in the presence of a doctor.
"The benefit of having mifepristone available to women, for whatever reason they need it for, far outweighs the risk of giving it," Norlin said.
Norlin said every FDA-approved drug, including Tylenol, carries some risk. If mifepristone is pulled from the market, women who experience miscarriages will be left with two options, Norlin said.
"They'll have to have either have surgery or they'll have to wait for the pregnancy to pass on its own, which could take eight weeks," Norlin said. "And that's brutal... I mean, torture for people going through a miscarriage."
The debate over mifepristone is making its way through the courts and could likely wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In case the drug is permanently blocked, Norlin's practice plans to stockpile mifepristone.
Several pharmaceutical companies, including the drug giant, are weighing in. They have signed an open letter calling for a reversal of the judge's decision saying it ignores years of scientific evidence and legal precedent.