The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an emergency stay with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to block a recent ruling by a Trump-appointed judge, which could restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide. The ruling issued by US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk last week suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the drug, which has been in effect for 23 years. Anti-abortion groups celebrate the ruling, but the Biden Administration heavily criticized it. This is amid concerns that it could restrict abortion access for tens of millions of women.
Kacsmaryk’s order results from a lawsuit filed by anti-abortion rights advocates against the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services in November. The lawsuit seeks to overturn the FDA’s approval of mifepristone and another abortion pill commonly used in combination with it. The plaintiffs claim that the FDA lacked the authority to approve the pills. They argue that the pills were approved in an accelerated process reserved for “serious or life-threatening illnesses.” However, the DOJ claims the plaintiffs lack legal standing to challenge the FDA’s approval. The DOJ argues that the plaintiffs do not take or prescribe the pill.
The DOJ has requested an administrative and long-term stay on Kacsmaryk’s order as the case goes through the appeals process. The request aims to provide more time and prevent Kacsmaryk’s decision from being implemented nationwide. The DOJ fears Kacsmaryk’s decision would harm women and thwart the FDA’s scientific judgment. NARAL Pro-Choice America conducted a February study estimating that implementing Kacsmaryk’s ruling would affect around 40 million women in the United States.
Biden Administration Criticizes Kacsmaryk’s Decision on Abortion Pill
Multiple Biden Administration officials have criticized Kacsmaryk’s decision. Attorney General Merrick Garland argued that the ruling would overturn the FDA’s expert judgment on the safety and effectiveness of the abortion pill. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra criticized the ruling. Becerra called the decision “regressive.” He warned that it will have a “disastrous impact” on women and families in the US. Becerra further cautioned that the decision could have far-reaching implications beyond the availability of the abortion pill. According to Becerra, the ruling could affect the approval process for other FDA-approved drugs and vaccines and turn it upside down.
However, abortion opponents and several major Republicans have praised Kacsmaryk’s ruling. Vice President Mike Pence approved the ruling by saying, “Life won today.” Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) celebrated the decision. She called it a victory for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.
It is unclear how a contradictory ruling by Washington-state-based federal Judge Thomas Rice, issued just minutes after Kacsmaryk’s ruling, will play out. Rice barred the FDA from making changes “altering the status quo and rights” of mifepristone’s availability. However, his ruling only applies to 17 states and Washington, D.C., which brought the case.
State Lawmakers Take Control as Abortion Access Divides the Nation
Abortion rights are uncertain due to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June last year. Individual state lawmakers are now responsible for determining women’s access to abortions.
This has created a divide in abortion access across the country. Many states have since banned the procedure or enacted restrictions on abortion pills, making drugs like mifepristone a key option for women who live in states with heavy abortion restrictions. However, Kacsmaryk’s order applies to states without restrictions on abortion pills, potentially impacting abortion access nationwide.
President Joe Biden has pledged to fight Kacsmaryk’s ruling, arguing in a statement that it would rescind “basic freedoms from women” and put their health at risk. The DOJ’s request for a stay is a step toward this fight.
The ongoing debate over abortion rights in the US and the potential implications of Kacsmaryk’s ruling
Abortion rights have been a contentious issue in American politics for decades, and this recent ruling is just one example of the ongoing debate surrounding women’s reproductive rights. The appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020 has heightened the issue. Many feared that it would tilt the court’s balance towards a more conservative view on abortion rights.
The Biden Administration has promised to challenge Kacsmaryk’s ruling. They aim to safeguard women’s access to abortion. However, the outcome of the appeal is still uncertain.
The case could end up back in front of the Supreme Court. Therefore, the court’s conservative majority could further restrict access to abortion.
This development emphasizes the importance of advocacy for women’s reproductive rights. The ongoing debate requires individuals and organizations to work towards expanding access to safe and legal abortion. However, women’s access to abortion should not depend on their geographic location or socioeconomic status.