Republican-Appointed 3-Judge Panel to Hear Abortion Pill Ban

May 17, 2023

A hearing Wednesday on the fate of the abortion pill mifepristone will be heard by a three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Based in Texas, the 5th Circuit has grown increasingly conservative in recent years. Judges James Ho and Cory Wilson, both Trump nominees, along with George W. Bush nominee Judge Jennifer Walker, will hear Wednesday’s arguments.

The pill mifepristone can be used along with another medication, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago. Currently about half of all abortions in the U.S. are medication abortion.

Its fate came into question in April when U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, also based in Texas, sided with a group of anti-abortion doctors who sued over the FDA’s approval and halted access to mifepristone nationwide—even in states where abortion remains legal. 

Kacsmaryk’s ruling was appealed by the Department of Justice, who took the case to the Supreme Court.

On April 21, seven of the Supreme Court Justices temporarily paused the pill’s ban, with Justices Alito and Thomas voting to allow the restriction to take effect immediately.

No matter how the 5th Circuit Court’s judges rule, the nationwide ban on mifepristone will remain on hold until case goes back to the Supreme Court. 

However, the judges’ line of inquiry could tee up questions that will be at the forefront when the Supreme Court again takes up the dispute.

The case over mifepristone is regarded to be the highest-stakes legal battle on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade last June.

PHOTO: 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals

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