U.S. Appeals court preserves partial access to abortion pill with tighter rules : NPR
A federal appeals court will allow partial access to the abortion drug mifepristone pending a high-profile federal case, but with new limitations on how the drug can be administered.
The US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit says the drug, used in most medication abortions in the US, remains approved for use up to seven weeks pregnancy while the case is being appealed.
Previously, the drug was approved for up to 10 weeks. The ruling also says that mifepristone can no longer be sent by post at least for now.
The Biden administration had asked the court for an emergency order to block a decision by a lower court judge in Texas. He had issued an injunction that was to take effect on Friday blocking the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug, which has been on the market for more than 20 years.
Late last week, US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk sided with anti-abortion rights groups that sued the Food and Drug Administration over its approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. He issued a decision that invalidates the approval of the drug starting this Friday unless the appeal court intervenes.
On Monday, the Justice Department asked the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of Kacsmaryk’s decision while the court hears the case.
In their request, Justice Department attorneys argued that “the district court overturned decades of reliance by blocking FDA approval of mifepristone and denying patients access to this safe and effective treatment, based on the court’s own erroneous assessment of drug safety.”
Mifepristone was approved by the FDA in 2000 and is now used along with another drug, misoprostol, in almost all medication abortions in the United States.
The appeal court decision means that mifepristone will continue to be at least partially available while the case continues.
It is unclear how the latest ruling will interact with a ruling in a separate federal case in Washington state, filed by attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia seeking to preserve access to tablets.
In that ruling, also issued Friday shortly after Kacsmaryk issued his decision, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice said the FDA was prohibited from “changing the status quo and d -rights as it relates to the availability of Mifepristone.”
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, one of the leaders of that effort, told NPR he believes it will preserve access to mifepristone for people in those 17 states and DC , unless a higher court says otherwise.
The Justice Department also filed a motion on Monday asking Rice to clarify the meaning of his decision, as there appears to be “tension” with the Kacsmaryk nationwide injunction.
Meanwhile, several states led by Democratic governors have begun stockpiling abortion pills — either mifepristone or another drug, misoprostol. Misoprostol is usually used in combination with mifepristone but can be used alone to induce abortion.
Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey and Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that their states have begun stockpiling mifepristone in case access is disrupted. California Governor Gavin Newsom and New York Governor Kathy Hochul say their states are stockpiling tens of thousands of doses of misoprostol.