While litigation is pending challenging the regulatory clearance of abortion medications, the Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to intervene to make them available. This move is in response to a recent judgement from the Fifth Circuit that maintained temporary restrictions on mifepristone pills.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland was very unhappy with the appeals court’s ruling, which reversed a ruling from more than two decades earlier by a federal judge in Texas that had overturned the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, a medication used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. A judge in Texas has issued an injunction blocking the use of mifepristone, which goes into force on Friday.
Noting that the statute of limitations could be an impediment to the plaintiffs’ claim, the Fifth Circuit allowed the Biden administration’s emergency move to stay the Texas judgement until a complete appeal could be heard. A section of the Texas court’s ruling limiting access to mifepristone via postal prescription and requiring that only licensed physicians supply prescriptions was upheld by the appeals court.
Experts say this judgement is one of the most important on reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court last year. The ruling is the result of a complaint filed in November by an anti-abortion group alleging that the FDA illegally allowed the use of mifepristone to terminate pregnancies, especially among teenage girls.
The Food and Drug Administration, along with other healthcare groups and the pharmaceutical industry, have voiced strong opposition to the Texas verdict, arguing that mifepristone is a safe and effective abortion medication. More than 400 pharmaceutical company CEOs signed an open letter expressing concern that the ruling could undermine government authority and affect the whole industry.
The FDA’s scientific judgment is at stake, and the Biden administration wants to ensure that all Americans have continued access to safe and effective reproductive care. Potentially far-reaching consequences for reproductive rights and healthcare access in the United States hinge on the outcome of the legal struggle over the regulatory licensing of mifepristone.