Houston, TX - In a recent ruling that has far-reaching implications for Texan women, a federal appeals court has imposed new restrictions on the availability of mifepristone, commonly known as the "abortion pill." This decision will affect the lives of countless women in the Lone Star State, and the matter is now on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Under the new court restrictions, pregnant women will no longer be able to obtain the abortion pill by mail. Instead, they will need a prescription from their doctor and attend three in-person medical appointments to receive the medication and address any potential complications.
Abortion Pill Availability Changed
While the ruling is not yet in effect, legal experts anticipate that this temporary decision will be challenged and eventually brought before the Supreme Court for a final verdict.
Furthermore, the use of the abortion pill has been limited to pregnancies of 49 days or less, a significant reduction from the previous limit of 70 days.
Nicole Regalado, Vice President of campaigns for UltraViolet, a leading national gender justice organization, expressed her concerns about the ruling's implications. She stated, "The implications are dire. Many people won't be able to access abortion, even in states where abortion is still legal and reproductive rights are protected through state constitutions, like California. This decision will be far-reaching and will also impact those states as well."
The legal battle began when Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk restricted nationwide access to mifepristone medications in the case of Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA. Following the Texas ruling, a federal judge in Washington issued a conflicting decision, leading to the matter's escalation to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Notably, this is the first instance in which a judge unilaterally, against the FDA's objections, has removed a drug from the market. Judge Kacsmaryk described the medication as causing the death of the unborn human.
Appellate Court Ruling
The U.S. appellate court in New Orleans ruled that the FDA had overstepped its authority by allowing expanded access to mifepristone for abortion through telemedicine consultations and mail prescriptions. However, the ruling's implementation is contingent on the Supreme Court's review.
For the time being, telemedicine and mail access to the abortion pill will remain, due to a Supreme Court order that requires the status quo to be maintained until the appeal is resolved. The U.S. Justice Department announced that the Biden administration will appeal the decision.
This ruling comes approximately a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which secured the constitutional right to obtain an abortion.
While the appeals court upheld the FDA's original approval of mifepristone and the authorization of a generic form of the drug, the future remains uncertain. If the Supreme Court outlaws the medication entirely, it will impact its various medical uses, including inducing labor and managing patients experiencing miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies.
According to the Gender Equity Policy Institute, states with abortion bans have significantly higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths among women. Recent polling indicates that a majority of voters disapprove of overturning the FDA's approval of mifepristone.
Advocates argue that mifepristone empowers individuals to make their own private medical decisions and expands access to comprehensive reproductive care. Banning it will have a devastating impact, forcing patients to travel across state lines for abortion procedures.
States Stockpile Pills
In the lead-up to this decision, some states, like Maryland, have stockpiled mifepristone in anticipation of potential shortages.
To counter these restrictions, UltraViolet is launching an information campaign targeting U.S. pharmacies to obtain FDA certification for misoprostol, the second of the two abortion pills. Civic engagement and electing candidates who support abortion rights are seen as vital in the ongoing fight for reproductive rights.
Amid these challenges, Regalado said "There are ways that we can fight back, and I think the movement is coming up with very, very creative solutions: we have power as consumers, we have power as citizens to elect public officials, and making sure that we're using that power to hold corporations accountable and to ensure that our government represents the very best interests of our community."
For more on this issue, contact Legal Affairs Reporter Clarence Walker at [email protected]