Austrian doctor sues US for seizing patients’ abortion drugs, takes case to Idaho court

BOISE — An Austrian doctor who prescribes abortion drugs to patients around the world is suing the United States for allegedly preventing his American patients from having abortions by seizing their prescriptions.

Dr. Rebecca Gomperts filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Idaho on Monday, asking a judge to stop the Food and Drug Administration from taking action that would block her patients from accessing the drugs causing the abortion.

“For many women seeking to end their unwanted pregnancies before viability, the only practical option is on the Internet,” Gomperts and her attorney Richard Hearn wrote in the lawsuit.

In many rural states, abortion providers are scarce, Hearn said Monday. This limits access to abortion to women who have the money and means to travel, or those who can find a provider on the Internet like Gomperts.

One of Gomperts’ first patients was a 14-year-old girl, Hearn said.

“How many 14-year-olds can rent a car, secretly drive to Salt Lake City or Boise, and then spend the night there and take these pills and drive to a follow-up appointment, and then drive home? Practically, it’s just not available to the poor in states like Idaho,” Hearn said.

Women who wish to have an abortion usually have two options: a surgical abortion where the embryo or fetus is physically removed from the uterus or a medical abortion where drugs are basically used to induce a miscarriage during the first weeks of pregnancy.

The drugs typically used for medical abortion, misoprostol and mifepristone, are heavily regulated by the FDA, and physicians in the United States must have a specialty license to prescribe them.

Gomperts, who splits her time between homes in Wien, Austria, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, started an organization called Aid Access to serve women seeking first-trimester abortions in early 2018. She prescribes the drugs inducing abortion through the Aid Access website, then the organization provides women with information on how to fill their prescriptions using an India-based prescription drug export merchant.

Indian laws allow the exporter to legally export small quantities of drugs for the personal use of a patient.

More than 40,000 women have contacted Aid Access since the organization began, according to the lawsuit, including about 37,000 women from the United States.

Of these, Gomperts prescribed the abortion-inducing drugs to more than 7,000, including about 40 women in Idaho.

The FDA sent Gomperts a letter in March warning her that the agency believed she was violating federal law by “introducing mislabeled and unapproved new drugs into interstate commerce.”

After receiving the letter, Gomperts learned that the FDA had seized abortion drugs from three to 10 of his patients. Gomperts said the FDA also blocked the transfer of money between his patients and Aid Access by blocking patients from using companies such as Moneygram and Xoom.

She stopped providing medical abortions to women in the United States for nearly two months after receiving the letter, according to the lawsuit, but eventually resumed the practice in May.

“It’s the feds interfering with a woman working with her doctor and then threatening the doctor who wrote that prescription,” Hearn said.

Gomperts said the FDA’s actions have created an undue burden on herself and her patients, preventing them from having abortions.

It’s not just abortion-inducing drugs that the FDA is cracking down on; the federal agency has long been trying to stop the unregulated flow of drugs into the United States

Many American patients turn to online pharmacies in countries like Mexico and India because the drugs are cheaper.

Hearn said abortion-inducing drugs should be treated differently because they are actually the only way for some women to access abortions in early pregnancy.

“It’s a dumb idea, but if you want to block drugs like insulin, that’s OK,” Hearn said. “But what if you block a woman – or a 14- or 15-year-old girl – who only has a few weeks that she can take these pills and you grab them? This is not only inadmissible, it is unconstitutional. »

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