CV NEWS FEED // Federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas on Friday, April 7 stayed the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the abortion pill mifepristone – a drug used in about half of all abortions. That same day, another federal judge ruled that officials must allow prescriptions for the drug to continue.
The contradictory rulings have set the stage for ongoing court battles that may culminate in a Supreme Court case to decide the matter.
Here is the current state of play.
Texas and Washington Rulings
“[The] Court hereby STAYS the effective date of FDA’s September 28, 2000, approval of mifepristone and all subsequent challenged actions related to that approval — i.e., the 2016 Changes, the 2019 Generic Approval, and the 2021 Actions,” the Friday ruling by Judge Kacsmaryk stated.
That evening, “Spokane-based Judge Thomas O. Rice, an Obama administration appointee … ordered U.S. authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the abortion medication mifepristone in 17 Democratic-led states that sued over the issue,” the Associated Press reported:
While the states sued in an effort to expand access to the pill, Rice did not go that far — instead, he blocked the FDA from making any changes to the drug’s access in the states that sued.
Biden Administration Moves to Keep Abortion Drugs in Circulation
When Kacsmaryk made his preliminary ruling invalidating the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug, he allowed a seven-day period before the ruling went into effect, leaving time for the Biden administration to appeal the decision.
The Biden Justice Department on Monday immediately filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, “generally a more conservative appeals court” according to NPR, “asking the court to decide by noon CT on Thursday, April 13.”
“Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge FDA’s approval of a drug they neither take nor prescribe; their challenge to FDA actions dating back to 2000 is manifestly untimely; and they have provided no basis for second-guessing FDA’s scientific judgment,” the DOJ motion stated.
Mifepristone Still Available, But Could Soon Be Limited to Pro-Abortion States
There “is no change yet to Americans’ ability to access mifepristone,” NPR reported Monday. “But that could change as soon as this Friday, when the preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is set to take effect.”
And again, from NPR:
No matter which way the appeals court rules — on the emergency stay, the preliminary injunction or the merits of the lawsuit altogether — the decision will almost surely be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The prospect of such a case reaching the Supreme Court does not bode well for the abortion industry, CatholicVote Communications Director Joshua Mercer pointed out. “For almost 50 years, the Supreme Court would routinely disregard the Constitution and any rule or regulation that got in the way of abortion. But, while the current Supreme Court doesn’t automatically rule our way, they’ve demonstrated an openness to judge a case on its own merits.”
“We’re hopeful that the Supreme Court will realize that the politically-charged approval of mifepristone in September 2000 was bad medicine and bad science – and bad for women. This pill should be taken off the market because it’s not safe,” Mercer added.
Chelsey Youman, an attorney with the pro-life Human Coalition, has expressed optimism about the question going before the Supreme Court. “We absolutely hope the Supreme Court resolves this issue once and for all. It’s been decades in the making,” she said.