The subsequent abortion combat may very well be over wastewater regulation

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 regulation that ultimately toppled Roe v. Wade.

The brand new push is the end result of years of brainstorming round tips on how to limit entry to the tablets — significantly since their use surged following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the FDA’s ruling in 2021 that they’re protected to take at dwelling and not using a 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 referred to as her group’s environmental focus “the subsequent innovation in ending using this broken device of abortion.”

Whereas they deride the tactic, abortion-rights advocates worry the wastewater arguments may have a chilling impact even in states the place abortion stays authorized — making medical doctors hesitant to prescribe the tablets 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 Middle for Reproductive Rights who has argued instances associated to abortion tablets. “Not solely are they not citing precise science right here however they’re attempting 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 tons of 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 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 can be so burdensome that use of the medicine may very well be successfully reduce 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 grow to be more and more accepting of abortions early in being pregnant.

“It’s laborious for me to think about even a Trump-friendly choose 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 regulation professor on the College of California, Davis and writer 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 People grow to be. So, it may very well 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 tablets to terminate pregnancies at dwelling and flushing fetal stays down the bathroom — which has elevated partly as a result of identical group’s efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and limit entry to surgical abortions — poses dangers to the atmosphere.

It claims with out direct proof that hint quantities of the drug in wastewater may threaten livestock and wildlife in addition to people, citing some research by which the drug was given on to animals reasonably than ingested from groundwater, and others the place medicine flushed immediately down the bathroom contaminated the water provide.

“Pharmaceutical contamination of water is a critical situation that may have critical impacts on the atmosphere, however attempting to say that one drug out of hundreds is having an outsized impact relies on ideology not proof,” stated Nathan Donley, the Environmental Well being Science director for the Middle for Organic Variety, who has written citizen petitions to the FDA. “Of all of the medicine and artificial chemical substances we shed that may doubtlessly contaminate water, abortifacients are a fraction of a fraction of a %. It’s nothing.”

Additionally referenced repeatedly within the petition are research in regards to 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 Girls’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 price finding out the influence of abortion tablets 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 tablets when it first weighed approval, quoting a 1996 report by which “the Middle for Drug Analysis and Analysis has concluded that the product will 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 tablets place the fetal stays in a medical waste “catch equipment” 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 combat over abortion and contraception, and a few have led to modifications in FDA coverage. One pending on the company from the Middle for Reproductive Rights, the American Medical Affiliation and different teams, for instance, is asking the company to loosen guidelines round abortion tablets to make them extra accessible for sufferers experiencing a miscarriage.

Zachary Kester, the final counsel for College students for Life and writer of the petition, stated whereas he and different anti-abortion advocates think about 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 completely 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 tablets make it as much as the U.S. Supreme Court docket, the group may discover a receptive viewers.

“The court docket has not proven itself more likely to defer to the federal companies,” Ziegler famous. “You’re working with a court docket [that] is skeptical in regards to the administrative state in a approach that could be useful to them.”

On the identical time, the group can be pushing members of the incoming Home GOP majority to make use of the appropriations course of to drive 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 yr to impose a medical waste requirement on abortion capsule use.

In an announcement to POLITICO, Good referred to as the flushing of fetal stays “reckless” and a “disgusting follow.”

With Democrats nonetheless accountable for the Senate and White Home, the hassle isn’t more likely to change federal regulation. However College students for Life is hoping to achieve traction in GOP-controlled states and affect the general public’s views on abortion tablets 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 tablets for his or her harms to the preborn and to girls, maybe they’ll be nervous about what’s within the water,” Hamrick stated.