Wyoming Judge Blocks Ban on Abortion Pill

June 23, 2023

Ninth District Court Judge Melissa Owens on Thursday temporarily blocked a Wyoming law that would ban the abortion pill statewide.

Wyoming’s law had been challenged by medical providers and others, who said that the ban would force women to have more invasive surgical abortions.

“Essentially the government under this law is making the decision for a woman rather than the woman making her own health care choice,” Judge Owens told the Casper Star Tribune.

It’s the latest move in an ongoing legal battle over the abortion pill, mifepristone. In April the Supreme Court blocked a lower court ruling that would have banned medication abortion nationwide.

That ruling came after emergency requests by the Biden Administration and mifepristone’s manufacturer Danco Laboratories, both of whom appealed a Texas court ruling that restricted access to the pill nationwide—even in states where abortion remains legal—while a lawsuit regarding the pill’s FDA approval goes forward.

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. About half of all abortions in the U.S. are medication abortion.

The Supreme Court’s ruling to preserve mifepristone occurred as other cases were playing out in courts across the U.S.

Just moments after Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk had imposed the initial nationwide injunction upon mifepristone on April 7, Judge Thomas Rice in Washington state blocked the FDA from from making any changes to its access in the 17 states and DC that had brought suit against pulling the drug off the market before him.

While Rice’s ruling only impacted DC and those suing states, he said a nationwide injunction was “inappropriate.”

In May, a three-judge panel in the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also took up the issue. On review, the judges held that mifepristone could only be prescribed in the first seven weeks of pregnancy, under a physician’s supervision, and the drug cannot be sent by mail.

However, despite how the 5th Circuit Court’s judges ultimately rule, the nationwide ban on mifepristone will remain on hold until case goes back to the Supreme Court. But the Circuit judges’ line of inquiry could tee up questions that will be at the forefront when the Supreme Court again takes up the dispute. 

Saturday will mark one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and a half-century of the Constitutional right to abortion.

PHOTO: 9th District Court in Wyoming

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