Appeals court blocks abortion pill ruling

Three judges allow distribution of mifepristone to continue, but uphold the ban on it being dispensed by mail and retail pharmacies.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the enforcement of a Texas district judge's ruling last Friday suspending the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of mifepristone. With this decision, the abortion pill will continue to be available on the market for the time being, however, it can only be purchased if the patient has physically attended a healthcare professional. Therfore, this will maintain the suspension of the distribution of the drug via mail and the dispensing changes that the FDA introduced starting in 2016 to facilitate dispensing.

The ruling states that, after a preliminary analysis, suspending the FDA approval was no longer possible as the time limit for doing so had expired. He did, however, uphold Amarillo District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk's ban on the agency's actions since 2016 that relaxed measures to obtain mifepristone. Specifically, the Court of Appeals keeps in force the parts that prohibited the extension of its use up to ten weeks of pregnancy (2016) instead of the seven initially prescribed. It also keeps blocked this year's measure that allowed retail pharmacies to dispense the pill.

Judicial war over the abortion pill

The Texas judge's ruling has sparked a court war over the use of mifepristone, one of the drugs used in chemical abortions. In the face of President Biden's own swift reaction after learning of the ruling, issuing a statement announcing the appeal and that it would defend women's right to abortion. amidst harsh criticism of Judge Kacsmaryk, a group of 19 Republican attorneys general submitted a amicus brief to the Court of Appeals requesting that it confirm last Friday's sentence.

The three judges of the Court partially admitted the emergency appeal filed by the Department of Justice and the laboratory that manufactures the drug last Monday. In its brief, the Biden Administration argued that the plaintiffs, a group of pro-life physicians and medical associations, had no standing to file the complaint, since the abortion pill had not harmed them personally, and therefore, their claims were baseless.

Biden, "focused on ensuring access to mifepristone".

Following the appeals court ruling, the White House issued a statement in which Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris confirmed their "commitment to abortion rights," and again attacked Kacsmaryk's ruling. In the document, Biden assures that he is "focused on ensuring access to mifepristone" and ensuring the health of Americans. "If this decision stands, it will put women’s health at risk and undermine FDA’s ability to ensure patients have access to safe and effective medications when they need them."

However, the definitive battle over the use of the abortion pill will be settled in the Supreme Court. Shortly after Kacsmaryk's ruling, the U.S. District Court, for the Eastern District of Washington, upheld a lawsuit brought by a group of 17 Democratic prosecutors to expand and ensure access to the drug. Judge Thomas O. Rice, nominated by Barack Obama, ordered the FDA to "maintain the status quo" and allow access to the abortion drug in the jurisdictions that filed the lawsuit, including 17 states and the District of Columbia.