Conflicting Rulings And An Uncertain Future For Medication Abortion

by | Apr 8, 2023 | Courts, Reproductive Rights

After two conflicting rulings, a showdown over medication abortion appears likely at the Supreme Court.

Late Friday, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issued a ruling that invalidates the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, a medication that can terminate an early pregnancy. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit specifically filed in Amarillo, Texas by the rightwing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom and anti-choice OB-GYN’s.

Kacsmaryk was appointed by former President Trump and was previously the Deputy General Counsel of a Christian conservative legal organization. His ruling specifically issues a stay of mifepristone starting in seven days.

However, just after Kacsmaryk issued his injunction, U.S District Judge Thomas Rice of Washington state, ruled that the FDA is blocked from that action. Rice’s judgment was issued after seventeen Attorneys General in democratic states filed a motion meant to prevent the FDA from banning mifepristone.

The current situation is essentially a legal limbo. Many legal scholars anticipate a Supreme Court ruling shortly to resolve the disputing legal opinions.

Mifepristone was approved by the FDA in 2000. It is safer than Tylenol or Viagra, and it can also be prescribed for certain miscarriage treatment. Kacsmaryk’s attempt to get the FDA to de-authorize mifepristone is unprecedented.

Kacsmaryk’s opinion is also littered with anti-abortion talking points. In one citation, he claims the term “fetus” is unscientific and instead uses the phrase “unborn human.” He also writes that the FDA violated the Comstock Act, a nineteenth century law that banned mailing anything relating to abortion or contraception, when it endorsed mailing mifepristone during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Kacsmaryk’s ruling, several Democratic lawmakers blasted the decision and overreach. “Republicans are one step closer to the national abortion ban they’ve always wanted,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar on Twitter.

The Department of Justice filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon also called on President Biden and the FDA to ignore Kacsmaryk’s order. The White House also condemned the ruling in a statement noting the Department of Justice’s appeal. “If this ruling were to stand, then there will be virtually no prescription, approved by the FDA, that would be safe from these kinds of political, ideological attacks.”

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A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).

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