Washington buys 30,000 abortion pills ahead of potential federal ruling to discontinue drug

On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state has stockpile purchased 30,000 doses of mifepristone, a pill most commonly used in medically-induced abortions

The move was made ahead of a potential federal court ruling in Texas that could force the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its approval of the pill.

"Washington state will not allow a judge in Texas to deny the right of Washington women to this safe drug," said Inslee. "We will not sit idly by. We have to recognize these threats will continue and our actions will continue to preserve the right of choice in the state of Washington."

Mifepristone has been used for more than two decades. However, anti-abortion activists, who filed the Texas lawsuit, claimed the FDA did not do enough research on the medication before approving it. If the Texas federal judge agrees, Inslee said the ruling could jeopardize access to the drug for women in Washington where abortion is legal.

"There are forces abroad in legislatures, in courts across the United States to try to take this right away from the women of the state of Washington," said Inslee. "That decision by a court could effectively end the manufacturing and availability of that drug from manufacturers."

To protect reproductive rights in Washington, Inslee said he directed the State Department of Corrections to buy 30,000 doses of mifepristone. 

The three-year supply was a $1.275 million purchase.

"The Department of Corrections (DOC) has existing authority to purchase and possess this product under Washington law and existing federal law. All we need is an additional way to deliver it through prescription authority through the normal channels," said Inslee.

RELATED: Wyoming governor signs bill banning abortion pills

In addition to the state’s 30,000 doses, Inslee said he also asked the University of Washington to buy another 10,000 doses, bringing the total to a four-year supply of the abortion drug.

The medication would be dispensed at public and private health clinics that offer reproductive care. However, in order for those clinics to receive the pills, the State Department of Corrections first needs to have the authority to distribute it. That’s why State Senator Karen Keiser proposed Senate Bill 5768, authorizing the DOC to, "acquire, sell, deliver, distribute and dispense abortion medications." 

"Abortion rights and reproductive freedom means nothing without access. And if patients don’t have access, they might as well not have a legal right," said Keiser, representing the 33rd Legislative District.

Keiser said Senate Bill 5768 was directed to the Committee on Ways and Means.

In another effort to support pro-choice rights in Washington, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed federal lawsuits to expand access to mifepristone. Ferguson explained the FDA has a restriction on the pills—requiring that pharmacies go through a specific process to dispense them.

"It’s our view that those restrictions are unlawful and unnecessary, which brings us to our lawsuit that we were in federal court last week. 17 states have joined us. So, again, we are seeking to expand access to mifepristone for Washington and those other plaintiff states," said Ferguson.

Inslee said Washington could see an influx of patients coming to the state for reproductive care, including people from Idaho where abortion is illegal. He said there is currently a bill in Idaho legislation making it a crime to cross state lines for an abortion.

"This bill would damage that right of travel. It is a grave danger. Accordingly, this morning, I’m sending a letter to the governor of Idaho urging him to veto that law," said Inslee.