The Lead

Congressional Democrats urge reversal of district court ruling on mifepristone

By: - May 2, 2023 2:26 pm
Woman holds tablet and glass of water. Female going to take tablet from headache or painkiller or abortion pill medication drinking clear water from glass.

(Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — More than 250 congressional Democrats have filed a brief urging an appeals court to reverse a Texas federal judge’s decision to suspend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s two-decade-old approval of the abortion pill.

In an emergency order, the U.S. Supreme Court in April issued a stay, meaning the abortion pill known as mifepristone will remain available throughout the United States while the lawsuit over its approval works its way through the appeals process.

In the brief filed Monday with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, lawmakers argued that the decision by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is not based in law and poses a health risk to pregnant patients if they are denied access to mifepristone.

They added that it could also threaten access to other medications that have been approved by FDA’s drug process.

“The consequences of the district court’s remedy could extend far beyond mifepristone, for it undermines the science-based, expert-driven process that Congress designed for determining whether drugs are safe and effective,” the 253 lawmakers — 50 senators and 203 House members — wrote.

Kacsmaryk in early April overturned the FDA’s approval of mifepristone dating back to 2000. Kacsmaryk is a nominee of former President Donald Trump.

Kacsmaryk’s opinion in the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is here.

“The district court’s order not only misapplies the law but also threatens to harm members of the public, many of whom rely on the availability of mifepristone for reproductive care — and many more of whom rely on the integrity of FDA’s drug approval process for continued access to life-improving and lifesaving drugs,” lawmakers wrote.

“Congress intended to — and did — vest authority in FDA to evaluate and ensure the safety and efficacy of drugs in the United States, and Amici call on this Court to give due weight to that intent,” they continued.

Mifepristone blocks a hormone called progesterone that is needed for a pregnancy to continue, and it’s one of two drugs used in a medication abortion. Medical abortions make up more than half of abortions in the U.S., according to research by the Guttmacher Institute.

Oral arguments in the appeal are set for May 17 in New Orleans.

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Ariana Figueroa
Ariana Figueroa

Ariana covers the nation's capital for States Newsroom. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections and campaign finance.