Dueling Rulings on Abortion Pill Mifepristone

April 8, 2023

Soon after a federal judge in Texas halted the FDA’s approval of the abortion pill mifepristone Friday, another judge in Washington state issued a conflicting injunction, preventing federal regulators from altering access to the drug.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, a 67-page opinion, said the FDA’s 20-year-old decision violated a federal rule that allows for accelerated approval for certain drugs—and that, along with subsequent actions by the FDA, was unlawful. 

He put his ruling on hold for seven days to allow the Biden Administration to appeal to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Based in Texas, the 5th Circuit has grown increasingly conservative in recent years.

Shortly after Kacsmaryk’s ruling was handed down, U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice in Washington state blocked the FDA from from making any changes. 

The dueling rulings came out of two separate lawsuits. 

In Texas, anti-abortion groups had sued the FDA last November, claiming the agency used an improper process to approve mifepristone in the year 2000 and did not adequately consider its safety for minors.

The federal government has countered in that case that the abortion drug’s approval was well supported by science, and that the challenge, more than two decades after its legalization, comes much too late.

In Washington, Rice’s decision was based on a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Democratic attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia who sought to block the FDA from pulling mifepristone from the market.

Where Kacsmaryk’s ruling would halt sales of the drug mifepristone nationwide while the Texas lawsuit proceeds—even in states where abortion remains legal—Rice’s ruling affects only the 17 states and the District of Columbia involved in the challenge.

In his opinion, Rice said a nationwide injunction was “inappropriate.”

The decision on whether to block medication abortion, which accounts for roughly half of all abortions in the U.S., is likely now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 24 of last year, the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority in a 6-3 ruling overturned Roe v Wade and 50 years of the Constitutional right to an abortion.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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