An update to this article was made on April 13, 2022:
WASHINGTON – On Wednesday night, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to allow restricted access to the abortion pill mifepristone. Two of the major restrictions in the court’s decision include denying access to mifepristone by mail and reducing the amount of time into a pregnancy a patient may use the drug.
Vice President Harris released a statement in response to the decision, saying that it “threatens the rights of Americans across the country, who can look in their medicine cabinet and find medication prescribed by a doctor because the FDA engaged in a process to determine the efficacy and safety of that medication.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland also released a statement echoing the Vice President’s words and said that the Department of Justice “will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.”
WASHINGTON – Some of the country’s biggest abortion advocates teamed up on Monday to respond to last week’s order by a Texas federal judge to halt the Federal Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. The resounding message: the medication is safe and access should be protected.
“This is a fight we cannot and will not back down from,” president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Alexis McGill Johnson said at a virtual meeting to discuss the recent court blocking of mifepristone.
Johnson said that Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision not only recklessly endangers the lives of people seeking abortion care, but also the public health and democratic system. “We are also in a crisis of democracy. This is what happens under a tyranny of the minority.”
She then spoke about the two young Black lawmakers, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled last week from the GOP-led Tennessee Legislature for protesting gun violence; as well as the multiple measures that have been made against gender-affirming care for transgender minors, calling the people at the helm of these laws “anti-abortion and anti-democracy politicians.”
The Department of Justice has already appealed last week’s order by Judge Kascmarky. Just before Monday’s meeting, the DOJ also filed a motion to clarify another federal judge’s order to the FDA. Judge Tim Rice of Washington directed the FDA to stay its approval of mifepristone. The two conflicting decisions in Washington and Texas were handed down just minutes apart from each other.
Director of the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project Jennifer Dalven said that in a “rational universe,” the appellate court would block the Texas order. If not, she expects the case to move swiftly to the Supreme Court.
“If the courts allow this decision to stand, they will be in essence telling every fringe group with an opposition to a medication or vaccine, ‘Just go find a politically aligned judge who can then, with a stroke of pen, deny Americans the ability to get the critical life-saving treatment they need,’” Dalven said.
The speakers did not hold back when it came to calling out Trump-appointee Judge Kascmarky’s history of ultraconservative views.
“One extremist judge, appointed by a twice-impeached, now indicted, former President Donald Trump was attempting to effectively ban medication abortion nationwide. The decision is a prime example of minority rule at its worst,” NARAL Pro-Choice America president’s Mini Timmaraju said.
Mifepristone is used in more than half of all abortions in the United States and was approved in 2000 as a safe option for medication abortions by the FDA. According to a 2023 poll by NPR and Ipsos, three in five Americans believe abortion should be legal, and Timmaraju said her organization is mobilizing to protect abortion rights and access.
Although access to mifepristone remains, Kascmarky’s preliminary injunction means that his order could take effect by Friday if the federal appeals court in Texas does not ban the ruling. Johnson said that if the lower court doesn’t block the decision, there will be confusion and chaos among providers.
“I think it’s too early to say exactly what will happen, but what we do know is that there will be…significant delays in people being able to access care,” she said.
Until then, all eyes seem to be on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals this week.
Monday’s meeting included representatives from the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, Center for Reproductive Rights, PlannedParenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America and All Above All.