A key abortion drug is now only approved for use up to seven weeks of pregnancy — a reduction from the original ten weeks — and can no longer be sent through the mail.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made a decision late Wednesday that paused the ruling that would have suspended the approval of mifepristone, the first in a two-drug regimen that ends a pregnancy, but allowed other parts of the decision to remain.
The Food and Drug Administration first approved mifepristone in 2000.
The United States Department of Justice said Thursday that it would ask the Supreme Court to block the 5th Circuit’s decision “to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said.
This all happened after Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk stopped the FDA’s approval of mifepristone last Friday which set off a chain reaction and caused the Justice Department to file an emergency stay motion with the Fifth Circuit. Kacsmaryk’s ruling would have taken effect Friday had it not been for the Fifth Circuit’s decision.
Ohio advocacy group reactions
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s Director of Public Policy Danielle Firsich said she is not surprised this is likely heading to the Supreme Court.
“As it stands as of right now, Ohioans’ access to safe abortions still stands,” Firsich said. “We will continue to utilize the procedures that we have used for decades with some variations.”
Abortion is currently legal in Ohio up to 22 weeks.
Firsich is worried about the potential consequences this could have on other FDA-approved medicines.
“If this decision stands, technically any federal judge could decide any drug approved by the FDA is problematic and could potentially bar its usage,” she said.
Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights executive leadership had a mixed reaction to the Fifth Circuit’s decision. Their executive leadership team consists of Dr. Marcela Azevedo, Dr. Lauren Beene, Dr. Nancy Li, and Dr. Aziza Wahby.
“While we are relieved that mifepristone will remain available to doctors and patients for medication abortion and miscarriage management as the case makes its way through courts, we are deeply disappointed and dismayed by the 5th Circuit’s decision to restrict access to this scientifically proven, time tested, safe, and effective medication,” Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights executive team said in a statement.
Mifepristone was used for 9,891 abortions in Ohio in 2021, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The drug was used the most in Franklin County (2,806), Summit County (2,008), and Cuyahoga County (1,643).
What other experts are saying
Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, a professor and public health scientist at University of California, said the Fifth Circuit’s decision will have harmful consequences if it is allowed to stand.
“The court’s decision will wreak havoc on access to abortion care and will cause particular harm to communities already facing serious healthcare disparities — especially people of color, people struggling to make ends meet, and people living in rural areas,” Upadhyay said during a call with reporters Thursday.
ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Director Jennifer Dalven said during the call lawyers are still trying to figure out what this decision means for doctors who are trying to prescribe mifepristone to patients.
“Nobody should be fooled,” Dalven said. “This decision is a huge loss for both access to abortion and for American’s ability to get access to other critical medication. … Unless the Supreme Court steps in, this decision will prevent many people from getting abortion care and force them to remain pregnant against their will.”
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