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The Biden Administration and the Justice Department “will fight” a Texas judge’s ruling that could block access to a widely used abortion drug, according to a statement Friday, as Democrats defended access to the drug—and as Republicans celebrated the decision—in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday the ruling by Texas-based District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk blocking federal approval for the abortion pill mifepristone was “taking away basic freedoms from women and putting their health at risk,” adding the Justice Department had “already” filed an appeal.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a separate statement the Justice Department “strongly disagrees” with the ruling and noted the Texas court’s decision “overturns the FDA’s expert judgment” that mifepristone is safe and effective.
Garland said the Justice Department would also review another ruling from the same evening—federal judge Thomas Rice in Washington state barred the Food and Drug Administration from “altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of Mifepristone.”
Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, issued a preliminary injunction Friday that will stay the drug’s federal approval, after anti-abortion rights advocates sued the FDA in November while seeking to revoke the agency’s approval of mifepristone.
Kacsmaryk put his ruling against mifepristone on hold for a week so the federal government could file an appeal, after which the FDA’s approval would be halted—though Garland added the federal government is seeking a stay pending appeal, which would allow the drug to remain available.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said “this is a regressive ruling” that “will have a disastrous impact on women and families across America is not overturned.” Becerra added the department will “vigorously fight” the decision. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the ruling a “massive step towards Republicans’ goal of a nationwide abortion ban and could throw our country into chaos.” Vice President Kamala Harris said the ruling was “unprecedented” and “threatens the rights of women nationwide.” Both Harris and Biden suggested the ruling “undermines” the FDA, as Biden said “if the ruling were to stand,” other prescriptions approved by the agency could face “political, ideological attacks.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence celebrated the ruling and said “life won again today,” according to Bloomberg. Pence suggested the “FDA acted carelessly and with blatant disregard for human life and the wellbeing of American women” by approving the drug. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) said the ruling “is a victory for pregnant mothers and their unborn children.”
Rice, an Obama appointee, ordered U.S. authorities to not make any changes that would restrict access to mifepristone and effectively affirm the FDA’s approval. The ruling, which counters Kacsmaryk’s order, was granted after requests from 17 states and the District of Columbia. It is unclear how the opposing rulings will affect each other.
Mifepristone, approved by the FDA in 2000, is an abortion pill that has been proven to be safe and effective. The drug terminates a pregnancy, while the drug misoprostol—commonly used in combination with mifepristone for medical abortions—helps expel the tissue. Access to abortion pills has become a larger debate in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last year, which resulted in several state-level abortion bans across the U.S. The Biden Administration has fought to expand access to abortion pills, making them available at retail pharmacies while issuing guidance clarifying the pills can be legally mailed to states where abortion is banned under federal law. If it goes into effect, Kacsmaryk’s ruling could cut off an additional 40 million American women’s access to abortion, according to pro-abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. Despite this, some legal experts have argued his ruling may not be that impactful—some say federal courts cannot legally force the agency to adopt a different process.
Trump-Appointed Judge Halts Abortion Pill Mifepristone’s FDA Approval Nationwide (Forbes)
Abortion Pills: What To Know About Mifepristone As Biden Administration Defends It From Legal Attack (Forbes)