RELEASE: Gottheimer Introduces “Freedom to Decide Act” to Combat Abortion Pill Ban
Supporting Telemedicine for Abortion Pill Access. Supporting Access to Mifepristone Via Mail and Across State Lines. Endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Women’s Law Center, & Center for Reproductive Rights.
Above: Gottheimer with Planned Parenthood representatives fighting to preserve access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
HACKENSACK NJ — Today, April 14, 2023, at Hackensack Health Center’s Planned Parenthood, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced new legislation he introduced in Congress — the Freedom to Decide Act — to protect doctor-prescribed access to the abortion pill mifepristone and support telemedicine across state lines, so doctors can prescribe the abortion pill wherever women are in need of health care.
The Freedom to Decide Act affirms that access to mifepristone does not violate federal law and that it is essential to protecting the fundamental right for all women to make personal, private health care decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures.
Gottheimer is co-leading the Freedom to Decide Act with Representatives Jasmine Crockett (TX-30) and Angie Craig (MN-2).
The Freedom to Decide Act is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Find the legislative text of the Freedom to Decide Act here.
This new legislation comes following a decision by a Texas district court last week to strike down the FDA’s approval of an abortion pill, known as mifepristone. This ruling overturned the judgment of medical experts and threatens to block access to this medication in every state in the country.
Mifepristone is a safe and effective pill that has been available for more than two decades, and is approved in nearly 80 countries. This pill has been thoroughly studied by the FDA’s medical experts who have found that it is safe to be prescribed, including via telemedicine, and delivered to the patient via mail or pharmacy pickup.
“This drug, like all others that are approved by the FDA, went through a thorough, rigorous approval process in 2000, and it was approved because it is completely safe. We also know that the FDA was right because this has been used for twenty years and proven safe. Rather than trust science and doctors, far-right extremists continue to insert themselves into women’s personal and private medical decisions by any means necessary,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus. “The Freedom to Decide Act affirms what we all know: access to mifepristone does not violate federal law and that it is essential to protecting the fundamental right for all women to make personal, private health care decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures.”
“The evidence is clear: medication abortion is safe and effective. This is supported by decades of rigorous scientific analysis and review. Republicans’ relentless attacks on reproductive rights are outrageous and fueled by ideological extremism. This is an assault on the privacy and freedom of families across our nation and sets a dangerous precedent for a court to overturn the FDA. That’s why I’m working to affirm the federal government’s right to approve and protect access to medication abortion services,” said Rep. Angie Craig (MN-2), a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus.
“Following the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, we have seen court after court attempt to strip away access to safe, effective abortion treatment and reproductive health care. In response to the Fifth Circuit’s order to largely deny a stay of the District Court’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, it is clear Congress needs to reaffirm federal protections for access to medications like mifepristone. That is why I am proud to introduce this resolution with Rep. Gottheimer to affirm the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel’s interpretation and understanding of the Comstock Act — specifically, that the law does not prohibit the mailing of drugs used for reproductive care and abortions where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully. Any other interpretation conflicts with how this law has been interpreted and implemented for nearly a century, and cannot be allowed to stand,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus.
“Anti-abortion extremists are using every tactic at their disposal to strip us of our reproductive freedom and access to health—including even trying to limit what medications we can get through the mail. We thank Rep. Gottheimer for his resolution that fights for abortion access and our reproductive freedom,” said Planned Parenthood Federation of America Vice President of Public Policy & Government Relations Karen Agostisi Stone.
“Medication abortion is under attack by extremists in the courts and in legislatures nationwide. NARAL is proud to endorse the Freedom to Decide Act, which would affirm the importance of access to medication abortion. We thank Reps. Gottheimer, Crockett, and Craig for their leadership and urge anyone who cares about our rights and freedoms to join them in supporting this bill,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America Vice President of Communications and Research Angela Vasquez-Giroux.
Gottheimer was joined at Hackensack Health Center’s Planned Parenthood by Field Director at Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and Southern New Jersey Tatiana Castrillion, Glen Rock Mayor Kristen Moreiko, Maywood Councilwoman Jackie Flynn, Englewood Councilwoman Lisa Wisotsky, and local advocates and leaders.
Below: Gottheimer and local leaders fighting to preserve access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to thank you for being here today to unite in support of a woman’s right to choose.
I think we’d all agree that these have been dark months since the Supreme Court issued the Dobbs decision overturning Roe versus Wade, ripping away personal and private protections for millions of people across America, putting their health and safety on the line. That decision opened the floodgates for extremists in statehouses across our country, to ban abortions even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Medical schools in many states have stopped teaching new doctors, including OBs, how to treat women who need emergency life-saving procedures, including sepsis. Just yesterday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill banning abortion at six weeks, when most women don’t even know they are pregnant.
So, what’s clear is that for those seeking to roll back women’s fundamental rights — the fundamental right to choose — Dobbs was just the beginning. Now, there are federal court cases around the country trying to dismantle access to abortion pills.
In one of these cases, a far-right Texas District Court Judge struck down the FDA’s decision to approve the abortion pill, known as mifepristone.
This safe and effective pill has been available for more than two decades, and is approved in nearly eighty countries. It’s been thoroughly studied by the FDA’s medical experts who have found that it’s safe to be prescribed, including via telemedicine, and delivered to the patient via mail or pharmacy pickup.
But this judge has substituted his judgment for that of medical experts and invalidated an FDA approval that had been on the books for twenty years. Yes, he decided he knew more than the doctors and scientists at the FDA.
This drug, like all others that are approved by the FDA, went through the thorough, rigorous, and time test approval process in 2000, and it was approved because it is completely safe. We also know that the FDA was right because this has been used for twenty years and proven safe. So, of all the drugs approved by the FDA, what was different about this one?
Well, rather than trust science and doctors, far-right extremists continue to insert themselves into women’s personal and private medical decisions, by any means necessary.
The threat remains and restrictions in many parts of our country are still preventing full access to this safe and effective pill, not to mention reproductive services and women’s health care.
This ruling has put millions of women’s health at risk. And let’s be clear: without access to safe and legal reproductive healthcare, women will die.
This decision cannot and must not stand.
I want to be clear: I will always oppose any attempt by those sitting on the bench or sitting in Washington who want to roll back the clock on the right to choose and stand between a woman, her doctor, and her faith when making personal health care decisions.
That’s why, today, along with Congresswomen Jasmine Crockett of Texas and Angie Craig of Minnesota, I’m proudly leading and introducing new legislation in Congress — the Freedom to Decide Act— backing doctor prescribed access to the abortion pill — or Mifepristone — and supporting telemedicine with doctors from across state lines, so doctors can prescribe the abortion pill, wherever women in need of health care live.
Telemedicine is becoming a critical way for women across the country to access abortion services.
The Freedom to Decide Act affirms what we all know: access to Mifepristone does not violate federal law and that it is essential to protecting the fundamental right for all women to make personal, private health care decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures.
Our legislation makes it clear that this pill was approved by the FDA, that telehealth services for medication, including Mifepristone, are safe and dramatically improve accessibility for reproductive health care services, and that mailing medical abortion drugs is legal.
I’m very proud that our legislation has the backing and support of the leading organizations in our country, including Planned Parenthood, who we’re lucky to have here today, as well as NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
We need to all stand up and stand together against Dobbs, and the actions of courts and state houses across the country. Their actions represent an unwarranted breach of personal privacy that puts people’s lives at risk. All you need to do is open your history books and read about what life was like for women and reproductive health in our country before Roe, the countless lives lost every single year, and you’ll understand why the federal Court’s decision was so egregious. The fear that was instilled back then in women, forcing them into dark corners, is unacceptable. And we can’t go back.
And, as I said, it’s not just the ruling in Texas that is hurting women post-Roe.
We are watching in real time the widespread consequences of those who have declared a war on choice, a war on women’s healthcare, and a war on personal privacy.
For example, not too long ago, when South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem was asked if the 10-year-old rape victim — who I know we all remember — should have to have a child, her response was that — quote — “every single life is precious… But, in South Dakota, the law today is that the abortions are illegal, except to save the life of the mother.”
And then there’s the General Counsel for the National Right to Life group, a man who authors highly restrictive anti-abortion legislation that he shops around to extreme state legislatures around the country to enact. He said, about that same 10-year-old rape victim — quote — “Unless her life was at danger, there is no exception for rape,” and “we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.”
These words about a victimized child left me speechless. They speak as if their laws and their words only have hypothetical consequences, but they are very real.
We must also take action to more broadly protect a woman’s right to choose, including against legislative threats to in vitro fertilization, known as IVF, to protect women’s data and privacy on reproductive health apps, and, finally, to fully codify Roe into federal law.
Last Congress, I helped pass in the House two bills — one to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law and another to prohibit interference of access to abortion care across state lines. And I’ve cosponsored similar legislation this Congress. But, those on the far-right are continuing to block these bills from passing and are instead spending their time trying to advance their extremist agenda.
But, we will never back down in the face of extremism. It’s times like these that we are reminded just how much our voices matter.
Thankfully, here in Jersey, the Attorney General’s Office has created a state Reproductive Rights Task Force to protect women’s rights and personal health data. The task force will also undertake investigations to secure the private data of patients and providers and to limit the sharing of personal health-related data with third parties.
Additionally, prior to the Texas ruling, I asked Governor Murphy to codify the FDA’s abortion pill rule into New Jersey state law — allowing retail pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion pills with a prescription, expanding access.
Here in Jersey, we don’t take a fight sitting down.
Here in Jersey, we protect — and will continue to protect — a woman’s right to choose.
All Americans have a fundamental right to make personal, private healthcare decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures. No one should get between a woman, her doctor, or her faith.
If we don’t stand up now and make our voices heard, far-right extremists will continue to advance their agenda to take away women’s right to choose, even in cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.
This is just common sense, and what most Americans know is right. We can’t allow extremism to win. We must fight to defend a woman’s right to choose.
Once again, I want to thank everyone here for joining me today and for all the work you and your members do to help our New Jersey community. I’m very proud to stand with you to make Jersey an even greater place.
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