The Broader Impact Of The Texas Mifepristone Case

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Public Health, Reproductive Rights

Last week, news arrived that a potential ruling in a case about access to medication abortion would be delayed for two weeks. The headlines about the potential disruption to healthcare that could face forty million Americans are bleak (and maybe even jumping the gun), but it underscores the broad ramifications over the reversal of Roe v. Wade in Texas and beyond.

In Texas, a lawsuit is seeking to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, a medication that can terminate an early pregnancy. The rightwing group Alliance Defending Freedom, an architect of the six-week abortion ban, as well as plaintiffs like an anti-choice OB-GYN group filed their lawsuit in Amarillo to ensure it would be heard by the Trump-appointed Matthew Kacsmaryk.

Kacsmaryk, who is a member of the Federalist Society and was previously the Deputy General Counsel at a conservative Christian legal organization, is hostile to abortion rights. This year he also ruled that a federal program that provides contraception to teenagers is unlawful.

But can Kacsmaryk actually restrict access to mifepristone as if he had a magic gavel?

Legal scholars that Texas Signal spoke with cautioned about using too much hyperbole when it comes to the mifepristone case. Though they maintained that the very fact the lawsuit is being heard is deeply concerning, there are several processes that must play out within the FDA before medication is removed from the market.

If the FDA is ordered to re-review mifepristone, the fact remains that the drug is very safe. It was approved in 2000. It’s also been prescribed for certain miscarriage treatment.

The Texas lawsuit however is already succeeding in sowing confusion. According to a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of women in the United States are uncertain about whether medication abortion is legal in their state. And in states where abortion is legal, just 44 percent are aware that medication abortion is permitted.

The Signal also spoke with Skye Perryman, the President and CEO of Democracy Forward, who explained that the confusion around abortion access is the point. “Even if the law is clear, there’s nevertheless a lot of confusion and that harms people’s ability to access care.”  

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the legal floodgates opened. And because abortions bans are broadly unpopular with Americans, rightwing and special interest groups are using every legal avenue to gut protections.

Perryman, who was also previously the Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recently joined an amicus brief against the state of Texas after indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to block the Biden Administration from re-affirming EMTALA, which makes it clear emergency room doctors should provide lifesaving abortion care.

As both cases make their way through the courts, the intentions according to Perryman are clear. “It shows you that notwithstanding what the American people want and believe about the right to access healthcare, including reproductive healthcare, there is a movement in the courts to roll that back and they are not stopping with removing one constitutional protection, they are trying to remove many others.”

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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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