Appeals Court Keeps FDA Approval For Abortion Pill Mifepristone, Blocks Mail Access

A federal appeals court decided late Wednesday to reinstate FDA approval for an abortion pill. The court also decided to bar access to the pill through the mail.

The pill, mifepristone, has been at the center of numerous court cases in the past week. A Trump-appointed federal judge, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval for the pill. A federal judge in Washington state barred the FDA from reducing the availability of the medication.

The separate decisions forced a Wednesday’s third opinion.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided to keep FDA approval for the drug but force doctors to prescribe the medication in person.


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The 5th Circuit decision has numerous impacts on the future of abortions in the U.S. Doctors are likely to prescribe a less-efficacious abortion drug, misoprostol. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the Department of Justice disapproved of the ruling. The DOJ is expected to seek another ruling from the Supreme Court.

“If allowed to take effect, the court’s order would thwart FDA’s scientific judgment and severely harm women, particularly those for whom mifepristone is a medical or practical necessity,” the DOJ wrote in a recent filing. “This harm would be felt throughout the country, given that mifepristone has lawful uses in every State. The order would undermine healthcare systems and the reliance interests of businesses and medical providers.”

Erin Hawley, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative anti-abortion group, approved of the 5th Circuit ruling in a statement to NBC News. Hawley called the decision “a significant victory for the doctors we represent, women’s health, and every American who deserves an accountable federal government acting within the bounds of the law.”

Ben Shimkus

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