Federal Appeals Court Reinstates Access to Abortion Pill, But Restrictions Remain

The abortion pill mifepristone has been given another chance in a federal appeals court that occurred on Wednesday, April 12, 2023. The block was put on a decision made by Texas Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk that would put significant limits on the pill, despite FDA approval. 

The court order allows for the availability of the drug, however, there is still a ban on mail-order services, and the pill cannot be used after 7 weeks of pregnancy. Abortion medication has become a huge topic of debate since the overturning of Roe v. Wade because it is widely accessible. Pro-life advocates and government representatives have voiced their opinion with protests against the sales at local pharmacies and bans in individual states. 

Judge Kacsmaryk, who is a nominee of former President Donald J. Trump, has a strong standpoint on his anti-abortion views, siding with opponents of Roe. Anti-abortion groups, some doctors, and Judge Kacsmaryk all agree the two-decade FDA approval of mifepristone was done without the proper procedure, and safety concerns were ignored. This is the first time a court has suspended a long-standing drug approval from the FDA. 

The FDA tested the medication in clinical trials back in 2000 on thousands of pregnant women and deemed the drug safe to use. Since then, over 5 million women have used it.

The Biden administration joined in on the discussion and is urging the Supreme Court to take immediate action. “The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.”

The ruling to stop Judge Kacsmaryk’s order, set by the 5th Circuit, stated that the individuals, doctors, and Judge Kacsmaryk himself had no right to claim the pill was harmful because they themselves had never used it and so their claims were baseless. However, they may have some pull with the small percentage of cases where the medication did not work and women were required to undergo extra procedures. 

“As a result of FDA’s failure to regulate this potent drug, these doctors have had to devote significant time and resources to caring for women experiencing mifepristone’s harmful effects,” stated the court order, according to The Washington Post. Government attorneys have stated that there is scientific evidence to prove that mifepristone is safe and effective and has been since its approval two decades ago. 

U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice delivered a ruling in Washington state, urging the FDA to preserve the status of the medication and keep it accessible all across the country, including the 17 states that filed the lawsuit.

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