Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Another week, another concern over the future of reproductive healthcare in the United States. I find myself once again questioning why women’s reproductive health is always so contested. In an ideal world, women’s bodily autonomy would not need to be called into question or debated in high courts in the United States. But we are far from that, and this time around, the abortion drug in the legal hot seat, mifepristone, faces an uncertain future.
So far, nothing new has been officially decided on the fate of mifepristone. Nationwide, a stifling, looming concern persists over the accessibility and availability of the drug. In the wake of this concern, Maryland should take quick measures to secure mifepristone within the state.
Even states that are less restrictive with their reproductive healthcare laws could still be impacted by a ban or restriction on mifepristone. There is always the potential for the ban to become nationwide if courts rule that it should not have been approved by the FDA in the first place.
Right now, legislators and those in office are exploring options to protect against this. One of the most popular choices is stockpiling.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore released a statement recently detailing his commitment to reproductive health care access. While no plan or legislation is set in stone or clearly outlined yet, stockpiling mifepristone in Maryland seems to be a well-explored option.
Stockpiling is a proactive way to safeguard state residents in this time of uncertainty. For example, Washington state has stockpiled mifepristone, describing the action as an insurance policy. If the drug were to become unavailable or the supply severely limited, the state would not have to rely on obtaining mifepristone on a need-only basis or run the risk of having an insufficient supply at any given time.
States have better access to mifepristone than individual pharmacies, hospitals or clinics. Maryland plans to work with the state Health Department to help ensure access to the drug in times of need. With the possibility of mifepristone being stockpiled in Maryland soon, the University of Maryland should join in these efforts to support residents by purchasing mass quantities of mifepristone in a daunting time like this.
It might sound strange for a university to get involved, but other states that have already taken preliminary actions, such as Washington and Massachusetts, called on their flagship universities to purchase significant doses of mifepristone. The University of Washington purchased 10,000 doses, and the University of Massachusetts bought about 15,000.
Regardless of the quantity, I believe that this university’s support would be greatly valued. Not only would this purchase support the state in providing Marylanders with reproductive care, but with this university’s commitment to reproductive healthcare, it seems like a logical, appropriate measure to take.
If this university wants to support its students’ reproductive health, helping the health department in purchasing mifepristone should be a no-brainer.
This university would not hoard mifepristone on its campus, the University Health Center or take it away from clinics or hospitals, but more so act as a collaborative means to purchasing and safeguarding the drug in Maryland. Through additional legislation, authorized officials can distribute or sell the stockpiled mifepristone to local, licensed providers throughout Maryland, ensuring that it does not take away from ordinary people’s access.
To compensate for the University System of Maryland’s expenditures, the state can always reimburse it. If needed, an online system could be worked out so that pharmacies can request pills directly from the university system’s supply.
The ultimate goal is making mifepristone widely accessible and available to Marylanders. This university can play an instrumental role in purchasing mifepristone and helping the health department secure the drug in mass quantities.
Stockpiling mifepristone is just one action Maryland can take during this time, but it is a major step in the right direction. As decisions about mifepristone unfold, only time will tell just how necessary these proactive measures are for Maryland. Regardless, we should avoid the risk of not having mifepristone when it is most needed.
Vrisha Sookraj is a junior psychology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.