UNC Health doctor suing state over abortion pill access: 'This has become a political football.'

WTVD logo
Thursday, January 26, 2023
UNC Health doctor suing NC lawmakers over abortion pill access
The lawsuit, filed by Doctor Amy Bryant, argues that there is "no medical reason for politicians to interfere or restrict access" to the drug.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A UNC Health doctor is suing the state in federal court over access to the abortion pill.

The lawsuit, filed by Doctor Amy Bryant, argues that there is "no medical reason for politicians to interfere or restrict access" to the drug.

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Dr. Amy Bryant, the plaintiff, writes:

"As a physician, my number one priority is the health and well-being of my patients. We know from years of research and use that medication abortion is safe and effective - there's no medical reason for politicians to interfere or restrict access to it, or for states to force doctors to comply with mandates not supported by medicine or science. These burdensome restrictions on medication abortion force physicians to deal with unnecessary restrictions on patient care and on the healthcare system."

North Carolina requires that a patient obtain the drug by a physician in a specially certified surgical facility. The state also requires state-mandated counseling 72 hours in advance.

"Pregnant people shouldn't be singled out by out-of-touch lawmakers to be forced to comply with restrictions that we don't place upon any other kind of necessary medical care," said Genevieve Scott, Senior Counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

"It allows them to look at the information provided on our state's website to look at the risk and alternatives," counted Dr. Bill Pincus, President of North Carolina Right to Life.

The drug, mifepristone, has received increased attention after several states implemented stricter regulations following the Supreme Court decision last June to overturn Roe v. Wade.

"We want to tell people and have their informed consent. What's good, what's bad, what are the complications, what do I do when we have complications," Pincus said.

The FDA recently expanded rules allowing retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone under certain guidelines, with the federal agency stating the pill is safe enough to be provided via telehealth or mailed to a patient without an in-person evaluation. According to the Guttmacher Institute, North Carolina is one of 18 states which require the prescribing clinician be in the physical presence of a patient, effectively banning telehealth.

"It should be a forward-looking state wanting to practice the best of standards of healthcare, and I think it does. But somehow this has become a political football, rather than worrying about the young girl or the woman," said Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, who believes there's no need for the current state restrictions.

In a separate lawsuit filed in Texas last fall, The Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-abortion group, challenged the FDA's initial approval of mifepristone.

"There are quite a few states that have restricted access to abortion, and they are protecting the mother and the baby's lives. That's our goal," Pincus said.

"There's nothing more important to make the decision to effectuate one's own medical decisions and to be able to make determinations about one's own body and one's own health," said Scott.

North Carolina is one of the few states in the South where abortion is legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

That could change however depending on what the NC General Assembly does as they convene for their first work session.

'Very wide range of possible outcomes'

The fight over access to abortion services has come back to the forefront after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark case Roe v. Wade.