US Anti-Mifepristone Decision on Hold for Now

17.04.2023 - All changes to the US use of abortifacient mifepristone are now on hold – for three more days – pending a review by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito of two complex and differing lower court decision on lawsuits brought by anti-abortion groups.

Alito, who authored the highest court’s June 2022 decision that the right to an abortion is not guaranteed by the US constitution, is studying both the Apr. 5 ruling by a Texas federal court that would roll back the FDA’s year 2000 approval of mifepristone and a parallel decision by a court in Washington state upholding its status in states where abortion is legal.

Additionally, the Supreme Court will analyze a decision by the Fifth Circuit appeals court in New Orleans, Louisiana, which took up the case immediately on request of the administration of President Joe Biden and modified the Texas ruling, while keeping part of it intact.

In his decision of the first instance, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk said the approval of mifepristone by the US Food and Drug administration should be nullified as the FDA had ignored “legitimate safety concerns” in approving the drug more than 20 years ago.

Kacsmaryk’s judgment carried a provision that it was to take hold within seven days if not appealed. In its immediate response, the US government in the name of the FDA requested an immediate administrative stay to preserve the status quo while the appeals process continues.

While the Louisiana judges vacated the part of the judgment that sought to nullify the drug’s approval, they agreed with the FDA that 20 years after the approval was probably too late to challenge it.

The Fifth Circuit, however, upheld the passage that banned the drug’s distribution by mail and required an in-person consultation with a doctor but rejected the FDA’s later extension of the point of gestation at which it could still be safely used, to 10 weeks from previously seven.

Alito is keeping to a tight schedule. Final arguments by those bringing lawsuits must be filed by noon Eastern time on Apr. 18 and the stay of restrictions is set to expire on at midnight on Apr. 19, so that observers believe a response, of whatever type, should be expected earlier.

Author: Dede Williams, Freealnce Journalist