On Wednesday, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals partly blocked a ruling that endangers access to the key abortion pill mifepristone in the United States.
Matthew Kacsmaryk, a district judge in Amarillo, Texas, appointed by former President Donald Trump, last week suspended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the drug while anti-abortion groups pursue a legal challenge seeking to ban it.
The Appeals Court granted the Justice Department’s emergency request to put on hold the part of Kacsmaryk’s decision, but with significant restrictions on the drug’s widespread availability including a requirement for patients’ in-person visits to obtain it.
Kacsmaryk’s decision “upended decades of reliance by blocking the 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,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in court papers.
Friday’s ruling overturning FDA approval of mifepristone cited the 19th-century Comstock Act, a so-called “anti-vice” law that has laid dormant for more than 50 years.
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April 10, 2023
Complicating the situation, a federal judge in northwestern Washington state on Friday ordered U.S. authorities not to make any changes to the drug’s access in 17 states and the District of Columbia that sued over the issue, countering the ruling by Kacsmaryk.
The judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the FDA from “altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of mifepristone.”
The U.S. Justice Department can still ask the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to intervene in an attempt to completely block Kacsmaryk’s ruling.