What Does the Mifepristone Ruling Mean for Nationwide Abortion Access?

A ruling from a Texas judge on an abortion medication could have nationwide ripple effects on women’s health.

A ruling from a Texas judge on an abortion medication could have nationwide ripple effects on women’s health. 

On Friday night, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Amarillo ruled to halt the use of mifepristone, a drug commonly used in abortions that has been in use and FDA approved for the last 23 years.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk wrote in his 67-page decision that the FDA’s approval violated a federal rule that allows certain drugs to be approved in a quicker manner. His decision was put on hold for seven days to give the government time to appeal, according to CBS News.

Less than an hour later, U.S. District judge Thomas Rice, an Obama administration-appointed judge in Spokane, Washington ruled in a separate case, preventing mifepristone’s manufacturer from pulling it off the market. 

Mifepristone is part of a two-pill regimen used in abortions. Mifepristone stops the pregnancy, while the second pill, misoprostol, empties the uterus. 

Late Friday night, the Biden Administration said it would challenge Kacsmaryk’s ruling and filed a notice of appeal.

President Biden commented on the matter, writing in a statement that the "Court in this case has substituted its judgment for FDA, the expert agency that approves drugs. If this ruling were to stand, then there will be virtually no prescription, approved by the FDA, that would be safe from these kinds of political, ideological attacks.

"The lawsuit, and this ruling, is another unprecedented step in taking away basic freedoms from women and putting their health at risk."

Women’s health rights across the United States have been thrown into chaos ever since the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade in June 2022. 

That November, conservative anti-abortion group, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a complaint in Texas alleging the FDA chose politics over science when they approved the drug in 2000, claiming the drug may not be safe enough. That suit was filed in Amarillo county where only one judge–Kacsmaryk– is assigned cases.

In response, the FDA wrote in a statement to Newsweek that they  appealed Kacsmaryk's decision and "believes patients should have access to FDA-approved medications that FDA has determined to be safe and effective for their intended uses."

"FDA approved Mifeprex more than 20 years ago based on a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence available and determined that it was safe and effective for its indicated use—medical termination of early pregnancy," it continued.

"The approval was based on the best available science and done in accordance with the laws that govern our work," they continued. "FDA stands behind its determination that mifepristone is safe and effective under its approved conditions of use for medical termination of early pregnancy.

In a statement released Friday night, Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed to protect abortion access.

“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA and will be appealing the court’s decision and seeking a stay pending appeal. Today’s decision overturns the FDA’s expert judgment, rendered over two decades ago, that mifepristone is safe and effective. The Department will continue to defend the FDA’s decision. 

Separately, the Justice Department is reviewing the decision of the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Washington et al. v. FDA.

The Department is committed to protecting Americans’ access to legal reproductive care.” 

On Saturday afternoon, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted her thoughts on the ruling, writing,

“Since the Dobbs decision, extremist elected officials have continued to attack reproductive freedom.They have pushed for radical policies: banning abortion in all 50 states, criminalizing doctors, and threatening access to FDA-approved medication. We will not stand for it,” she started.

“This week's election in Wisconsin reaffirmed what we already know to be true: the majority of Americans believe and agree that every woman—not her government—should have the freedom to make decisions about her own body,” she wrote.

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