A service run by a doctor based in Austria that provides abortion pills by mail sued the U.S. government Monday for allegedly seizing its shipments.
Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of Aid Access, claims in the lawsuit that federal officials seized three to 10 doses of abortifacients she has prescribed in the past six months and alleges the government has blocked payments for some of the doses.
Gomperts’ attorney, Richard Hearn, argued in an interview with NPR that blocking her shipments undermines women’s access to abortion in settings where it is otherwise geographically unavailable.
"Some women in the United States can exercise that right just by going down the street if those women happen to live in New York or San Francisco or other major metropolitan areas on either one of the coasts," Hearn told NPR.
"But women in Idaho and other rural states, especially conservative states ... cannot exercise that right,” he added.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Idaho, names several government officials and agencies, including Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Norman Sharpless, and their respective agencies.
The suit says that 37,000 women, comprising residents of all 50 states, have contacted the organization since last March, and that Gomperts has prescribed the drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, to more than 7,000 women in the U.S. during that time.
The FDA issued a warning letter to Aid Access in March, accusing it of misbranding the drugs and facilitating their improper distribution. Hearn told NPR that Gomperts stopped prescribing the drugs for about two months before resuming.
"The FDA is a huge institution. It's very powerful, and it's a form of intimidation that is quite severe," Gomperts told NPR. "I would say a form of bullying. And so I think it's very important to stand up against it."
The Hill has reached out to HHS for comment. The FDA's Office of Media Affairs told The Hill it does not comment on pending litigation.