A federal appeals court has upheld some restrictions on access to the abortion medication mifepristone, while still allowing it to remain available, CNN reports. The government and mifepristone’s manufacturer will likely appeal the ruling, setting up another major abortion rights showdown in the Supreme Court following its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In its ruling, the three-judge panel on the reliably conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk that the Food and Drug Administration had acted unlawfully when it changed regulations to make mifepristone easier to obtain. Another Trump-appointed judge on the panel went so far as to argue in a partial dissent that the approval of mifepristone in 2000 was unlawful.
The panel did not, however, reinstate Kacsmaryk’s initial injunction suspending the distribution of mifepristone nationwide. After Kacsmaryk handed down his original decision in April, the Justice Department moved to freeze the ban, and both the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court stayed the part of his ruling that would’ve taken mifepristone off the shelves.
Mifepristone is one of two pills commonly used to perform medicated abortions. While it’s been readily available since 2000, in recent years the FDA has taken measures to expand access, like approving its use within 10 weeks of pregnancy, and removing in-person dispensing requirements that allowed it to be prescribed via tele-health and mailed to users. Those were the measures that anti-abortion activists targeted with their lawsuit, and which were subsequently ruled unlawful Kacsmaryk and the Fifth Circuit panel.
In a statement, Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, stressed that today’s ruling effects neither the availability nor FDA approval of mifepristone. “But the 5th Circuit’s opinion makes it clear that mifepristone’s approval is very much still at risk, as is the FDA’s independence,” she continued. “Pregnant people should be the ones who make decisions about their own health care, and medical professionals should be the ones who make evidence-based decisions about the safety of medications — not judges. The Supreme Court should reject this clearly baseless and political attempt to interfere with our ability to get health care.”
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon issued a statement as well, saying, “Any effort to restrict access to safe and effective abortion medication is nothing more than a political ploy to control women’s bodies. The science is clear and a wealth of evidence demonstrates the drug’s safety and efficacy, which is why the FDA approved it more than 20 years ago. In fact, mifepristone has fewer complications than Tylenol.”
And Evan Masingill, CEO for GenBioPro, the manufacturer of mifepristone, said, “We remain concerned about extremists and special interests using the courts in an attempt to undermine science and access to evidence-based medication, as well as attempts to undermine the US Food and Drug Administration’s regulatory authority. We will continue to use our company’s legal and regulatory tools to ensure access to mifepristone, which is essential to the health of many in the United States.”
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