(LifeSiteNews) – There is no truth to the claim that pro-life laws could lead to prosecution of medical professionals simply for prescribing pain medication that in high doses may cause an abortion, according to two pro-life groups.
In the last month, mainstream media organizations including CNN, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Insider have all run stories about women with chronic pain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis allegedly not being able to procure a drug called methotrexate because their pharmacists have concerns about being criminally prosecuted. In high doses, the drug can induce an abortion.
But laws, in states such as Texas and Tennessee, clearly state that someone must intentionally prescribe someone these drugs for an abortion in order to face prosecution.
“These unjustified claims are part of a strategy by abortion advocates after Dobbs to spread confusion,” Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel with Americans United for Life, told LifeSiteNews. “They threaten to harm Americans who need legitimate medications.”
“Some drugs are commonly useful for different purposes, some of which are entirely legitimate medicine. This is a well-known truth that goes back to the 19th century,” Forsythe wrote in his email. “That’s why the abortion laws have long said…….’used with intent to terminate pregnancy.’”
“So, NO, state laws do not broadly prohibit dispensing methotrexate. Instead, abortion laws are specifically drafted to specify the unlawful intent—to terminate pregnancy,” he emphasized.
“Note also one obvious and well-known use of drug labeling: to warn women who are pregnant not to take a certain drug,” Forsythe added. “Drug labeling serves to protect doctors and pharmacists.”
Texas Right to Life also told LifeSiteNews that pharmacists cannot be prosecuted unless they knowingly have assisted someone with an abortion.
“No, Texas law does not prohibit prescriptions for drugs intended for other conditions that could be misused to cause an abortion,” Kimberly Schwarz, communications director for the pro-life group, told LifeSiteNews. The state code defines abortion as “the act of using or prescribing an instrument, a drug, a medicine, or any other substance, device, or means with the intent to cause the death of an unborn child of a woman known to be pregnant,” Schwarz noted.
“Intent is key. If the pharmacist prescribes the drugs with the intent of treating an ailment, he or she would not be held liable,” Schwarz explained.
She, like Americans United for Life, sees these claims of restricted access to pain drugs as part of a fear campaign against pro-life laws.
“These claims are part of a propaganda campaign from the media to draw attention away from the violence of abortion. Leftists can’t defend abortion itself, so instead, they deceive and distract,” she wrote in her email to LifeSiteNews. “Directly talking about abortion means proponents must answer what (or whom) is being aborted. Thus, they seek to avoid the question entirely and instead scare Americans into supporting their position by conflating abortion with other issues.”
The policy director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America has also relayed the necessity of intent when prosecuting abortion-related crimes when speaking to the Washington Post.
“Intent is the key here,” Katie Glenn said in an August 8 article. “If you’re a rheumatologist, you’re not doing abortions. If you’ve never prescribed methotrexate for abortion, you’re free to continue prescribing it as you were.”
LifeSiteNews attempted to verify some of the claims of restricted access but did not receive responses.
Neither the Texas Pharmacy Association nor the Tennessee Pharmacists’ Association, both in states with bans on abortion, responded to requests for comment on their analysis of state law and if an attorney had informed them to be wary of prescribing the drugs. LifeSiteNews also asked both if there were any statements from their state’s attorney general or prosecutors indicating that the state’s laws against abortion will be interpreted to include prosecution for someone who dispenses pain drugs.
LifeSiteNews reached out to the media relations team for both Tennessee and Texas’ attorneys general to ask if they had made any comment on prosecuting people for dispensing drugs or if there was anything in state law that would allow for prosecution of a pharmacist or healthcare professional who prescribes or dispenses drugs for which one side effect in high doses may be an abortion. Neither responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.
Doctors cite hearsay evidence of drug denials, won’t respond to questions
Several doctors also told the media they had heard “reports” of patients not being able to get access to methotrexate.
“I have gotten some reports where children have been denied methotrexate for their juvenile arthritis until they’ve proven they’re not pregnant,” Dr. Cuoghi Edens, an assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at University of Chicago Medicine, told the LA Times.
LifeSiteNews emailed Dr. Edens and asked for clarification on if “children” included teenage girls, since the drug warning for methotrexate says not to take if someone is or can get pregnant.
LifeSiteNews also asked if she had received any legal guidance that stated medical professionals should not dispense this drug, and where these patients were from, since Illinois does not prohibit abortion. Edens was also asked if she could help connect LifeSiteNews to the patients who had been denied access to methotrexate.
Edens did not reply by the time of publication.
CNN reported that Pittsburgh rheumatologist Mehret Birru Talabi “has been hearing from a number of patients who are not able to get refills of medications that can cause abortion or birth defects, including methotrexate.”
Dr. Talabi did not respond to an email that asked where these patients were from, since Pennsylvania has not implemented any new pro-life laws recently. LifeSiteNews also asked Talabi if she prescribes the drug to women of child-bearing age, since the drug is not supposed to be taken if someone is or can get pregnant.
Media highlights story of pro-abortion activist who had unrelated prescription issues prior to Dobbs
At least one woman highlighted by the media is also an activist with a history of prescription issues prior, and presumably unrelated, to Dobbs.
In early June, disability rights activist Sarah Blahovec told the LA Times that she was “waiting to see if her methotrexate prescription will be refilled in the coming weeks,” despite living in Virginia, which has not passed any additional laws against abortion since the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Numerous local news stations picked up her story as well.
Blahovec is also involved in abortion activism – in 2018, she participated in a Facebook Live with EMILY’s List, a pro-abortion political group. Her personal page lists her as a consultant to “progressive’ causes.
LifeSiteNews emailed Blahovec and asked for clarification on the status of her prescription, since Virginia has not passed any further laws against abortion. LifeSiteNews also asked if she could share any messages from medical professionals. While she did not respond to LifeSiteNews, she did tweet about the media inquiry.
A July 21 tweet subsequently found by LifeSiteNews indicated that Blahovec was able to refill her prescription. Moreover, in a series of tweets the activist acknowledged that there’s nothing in Virginia law limiting methotrexate.
Whether the prescription refill delay was due to an interpretation of the state’s abortion laws or unrelated complications on behalf of insurance or pharmacies remains unclear. That’s because Blahovec appears, even prior to Dobbs, to have had problems getting her prescriptions filled by different pharmacies.
In fact, her problem with prescriptions date back a half-decade, writing in 2016 that she was unable to have CVS properly dispense her medications.
Mail-in pharmacies reportedly did not help either in May 2022.