DOJ Appeals Texas Abortion Pill Ruling

April 11, 2023

The Department of Justice on Monday appealed a ruling by a Texas judge that would halt access to the abortion pill nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas paused the FDA’s approval of mifepristone on Friday while a related lawsuit that he’s presiding over proceeds.

However, 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.

In its appeal, the DOJ said that it’s Kacsmaryk’s “extraordinary and unprecedented order” that should remain on hold—not access to the drug—while it challenges the decision.

“If allowed to take effect, the court’s order would thwart FDA’s scientific judgment and severely harm women, particularly those for whom mifepristone is a medical or practical necessity,” said the DOJ.

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

The Texas ruling is competing with a dueling decision out of Washington state. On Friday, soon after Kacsmaryk ruled, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice in the northwestern state issued a conflicting injunction, preventing federal regulators from altering access to the drug. 

Rice’s decision was based a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Democratic attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia seeking to block the FDA from pulling the abortion pill from the market.

While Kacsmaryk’s ruling would block access to the abortion pill throughout the U.S.—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.” He was echoed by some 400 pharmaceutical company executives who said Kacsmaryk’s ruling ignored both scientific and legal precedent.

A statement Monday signed by the execs said, “If courts can overturn drug approvals without regard for science or evidence, or for the complexity required to fully vet the safety and efficacy of new drugs, any medicine is at risk for the same outcome as mifepristone.”

Mifepristone was approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago. It accounts for roughly half of all abortions in the U.S.

No matter how the 5th Circuit rules on the DOJ’s appeal, the decision on whether to block medication abortion is likely now headed tot he 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.

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