Judges In Texas & Washington Make Contradictory Rulings On Abortion Pill Mifepristone Access
Texas federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled on Friday that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) incorrectly approved mifepristone – a key component of a two-drug regimen commonly used to terminate a pregnancy – 23 years ago. The ruling came on the same day that a Washington state judge issued a conflicting ruling on mifepristone, ordering that the “status quo” of access to mifepristone be maintained.
Kacsmaryk’s long-awaited ruling, on a lawsuit brought by the antiabortion interest group Alliance Defending Freedom, gave the Justice Department seven days to bring the case to an appeals court.
The suit claims that the FDA failed to properly review the safety of mifepristone. Critics however have argued that complications with drug-induced abortions happen less frequently than other common procedures such as wisdom teeth removal and colonoscopies.
Kacsmaryk is the sole federal district justice in Amarillo, Texas, and all suits brought in the jurisdiction are overseen by him. A former lawyer for the right-wing First Liberty Institute and appointed by former President Donald Trump, Kacsmaryk has a history of pushing a conservative legal agenda and opposing the Biden administration on issues such as immigration and LGBT protections.
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Kacsmaryk has ruled on a disproportionate number of lawsuits brought by conservative interest groups like Alliance Defending Freedom, suggesting a strategy among these plaintiffs to have their cases seen by judges sympathetic to their cause.
Also on Friday, Judge Thomas Rice of the Eastern District of Washington delivered a conflicting ruling in a case brought by 17 states and the District of Columbia. While Rice did not grant the states the expansion of mifepristone access that they sought, he confirmed that there should be no efforts to change the availability and distribution of the drug for abortion seekers.
These seemingly opposing federal rulings are likely to culminate in a Supreme Court battle in the near future. It is unclear how access to mifepristone will be handled in the meantime.
Some state governments have reaffirmed that the rulings will not affect abortion access in their states.
“Abortion is still legal and accessible here in California and we won’t stand by as fundamental freedoms are stripped away,” reads a statement from Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s office.
Today’s ruling to pull back the 20-year FDA approval of Mifepristone by Federal Judge Kacsmaryk threatens access to abortion care across the country.
Abortion is still legal and accessible here in California and we won’t stand by as fundamental freedoms are stripped away. pic.twitter.com/ZdAsQLYhhX
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) April 7, 2023
New York Attorney General Letitia James reaffirmed in a public statement that “abortion continues to be legal in New York and New York will remain a safe haven for anyone seeking abortion care.”
Notably, this specific suit only covers mifepristone, and the other drug in the regiment, misoprostol, is still legal in states with protected access to abortions. Misoprostol is an effective abortion medication on its own.
These rulings are a continuation of the nationwide battle over access to legal abortions, a fight that was reinvigorated by the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn the precedence of Roe vs. Wade and return the question of abortion rights to state governments.
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