While a high-profile federal lawsuit is being heard, a federal appeals court will permit some access to the abortion medicine mifepristone, but they will impose additional restrictions on how the drug may be delivered.
While the case is being reviewed, the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has ruled that the medicine, which is used in the majority of medication abortions performed in the United States, may continue to be prescribed for usage up to seven weeks into a pregnancy.
In the past, the medicine has been given approval for a period of up to 10 weeks. According to the judgment, mifepristone cannot longer be sent over the mail, at least for the time being.
The ruling of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals may be appealed to the Supreme Court by the Biden administration.
Late in the week before last, United States District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled in favor of anti-abortion rights organizations that had sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to the FDA’s approval of the abortion drug mifepristone. He handed down a decision that, without intervention from the court of appeals, would render the drug’s approval null and void starting this coming Friday.
On Monday, the Department of Justice submitted an application to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals requesting that the court temporarily halt Kacsmaryk’s judgment in order to hear the case. In their motion, the attorneys for the Justice Department stated that “the district court upended decades of reliance by blocking FDA’s approval of mifepristone and depriving patients of access to this safe and effective treatment, based on the court’s own misguided assessment of the drug’s safety.”
Mifepristone was granted approval by the FDA in the year 2000, and it is now used in conjunction with another medicine called misoprostol in almost all medical abortions carried out in the United States. Mifepristone was previously allowed for pharmaceutical abortion up to the seventh week of pregnancy; however, in 2016, the FDA extended that approval to include the first ten weeks of pregnancy. As a result of the ruling made by the court of appeals, mifepristone will continue to be made accessible, at least in part, while the case is being heard.