ACCESS TO ABORTION PILLS AT RISK – FDA’S APPROVAL OF MIFEPRISTONE CHALLENGED
It didn’t take long. Anti-abortion activists have expanded their goals since Roe was overturned on June 24, 2022. With medication abortion – mifepristone and misoprostol pills taken together — accounting for more than half of the abortions in the United States, opponents of abortion rights set their sights on eliminating such access. Their strategy: reverse the FDA’s approval of the drug mifepristone.
Never mind that the FDA’s decision that the drug is safe and effective was in 2000 and that tens of thousands of women have safely used the two-drug regimen since then. It is the most commonly used method to terminate early pregnancies, up to 10 weeks gestation. Its proven safety and efficacy have been accepted by the medical community as scientific fact for decades.
Yet, Christian anti-abortion groups represented by Alliance Defending Freedom found a receptive ear in ultra-conservative federal district court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee. ADF filed their case in his Amarillo, TX court in November 2022. [ Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, N.D. Tex., No. 2:22-cv-00223.) Their aim: ending access to medication abortion across the country. If they succeed, even women in states like California which have strong protections for abortion rights would be denied the drug.
Women’s health and rights on the line
The implications for women’s health are dire. Abortion providers, clinics and their patients would need to use alternative treatments, such as less safe, less effective misoprostol alone or more intrusive and costly procedural abortions. Providers would face huge logistical challenges and the virtually impossible task of providing more time-consuming and expensive care to all those needing early abortion care.
Status of case against the FDA
Preliminary rulings by Kacsmaryk and the 5th Circuit federal appeals court that reviewed them would have enjoined or restricted use of mifepristone. Those decisions were temporarily stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on April 21, 2023, pending the outcome of litigation.
Currently, the appeal of Kacsmaryk’s order revoking FDA approval of mifepristone awaits decision by the 5th Circuit. Oral arguments were held on May 17, 2023.