Court ruling on the abortion pill

Future use of the medication now pending further action

Arianna Villareal, Staff Writer

The ongoing battle on the issue of abortion has ramped up in recent months. The abortion pill, mifepristone, has come under intense controversy from both sides of the aisle. Otherwise known as “The Pill,” the drug has been the topic of much scrutiny due to its adverse side effects and an allegation that the Food and Drug Administration rushed its approval amidst lobbying from pharmaceuticals.

The future of mifepristone remains in limbo while the courts decide its continued use as an abortion drug.

On April 7, District Court Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, who hears cases in Amarillo at the North Texas U.S. District Court, ruled to overturn the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone. He argued the approval was rushed, which led to an unsafe drug being offered in the market. At the same time, a federal judge in the Washington District Court ruled that there would be no changes that would restrict the availability and access to the drug.

On April 12, the Department of Justice appealed Kacsmaryk’s ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision left in place part of Kacsmaryk’s ruling, which blocked steps the FDA had taken to facilitate access to mifepristone. These included a requirement for the pill to be administered in person by a certified prescriber, that it could only be taken up to seven weeks of pregnancy, and that all adverse effects were required to be reported.

Following the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, the DOJ filed an emergency application on April 21 requesting an intervention on behalf of the Supreme Court to preserve the status quo. The high court provided a stay, which is an action taken by a court to halt a legal proceeding. This stay paused the remainder of Kacsmaryk’s ruling and restored the circumstances that existed regarding the accessibility of mifepristone in the market until the case is heard again.

In his dissenting opinion to grant the stay, Justice Samuel Alito noted, “At present, the applicants are not entitled to a stay because they have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm.” He also claims the FDA has not acted equitably because they have “engaged in what has become the practice of leveraging district court injunctions as a basis for implementing desired policy while avoiding both necessary agency procedures and judicial review.” However, he also stated, “That disposition would not express any view on the merits of the question whether the FDA acted lawfully in any of its actions regarding mifepristone.”

The oral arguments in the Fifth Circuit will be heard on May 17. The decision could be challenged again by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the plaintiff – Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. If they decide to proceed with a challenge, another stay could be granted until this case is either taken up by the Supreme Court or they decline to hear it.

According to studies by NBC News and the Guttmacher Institute, over half of abortions are done with the pill. Meaning, the resulting ruling of this case will be momentous. Conservative lawmakers are vying for there to be measures to administer the pill, citing a lack of discernment for mailing the pill without discretion or medical supervision. Liberal lawmakers, on the other hand, strive to maintain access as it is.