Judge Hears Case That Could Block Use of Abortion Pill

Texas judge had questions about court's 'sweeping authority' on mifepristone
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 15, 2023 7:50 PM CDT
Judge Hears Case That Could Block Use of Abortion Pill
A Women's March group member dons a kangaroo mask and judicial robe, Wednesday, March 15, 2023 in Amarillo, Texas.   (AP Photo/David Erickson)

A conservative judge in Texas raised questions Wednesday about a Christian group's effort to overturn federal regulators' decades-old approval of a leading abortion drug, in a case that could threaten the country's most common method to end pregnancies. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk heard more than four hours of debate over the Alliance Defending Freedom's request to revoke or suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone. Such a step would be an unprecedented challenge to the FDA and its authority in deciding which drugs to permit on the market, the AP reports. Kacsmaryk said he would rule "as soon as possible," without giving any clear indication of how he might decide.

Mifepristone, when combined with a second pill, was approved in 2000 and is used to end pregnancies until their 10th week. It has been increasingly prescribed since last summer’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, saved some of his most pointed questions for attorneys representing the alliance, which filed the case in Amarillo in anticipation of getting a favorable ruling. "Explain to me why this court has that sweeping authority?" Kacsmaryk asked, in reference to the group's request to pull mifepristone from the market. The judge also questioned whether the group had the legal standing to obtain a pretrial ruling.

But the judge also posed questions suggesting he was considering how he might draft a preliminary injunction in the plaintiffs' favor. Lawyers representing the FDA argued that pulling mifepristone would disrupt reproductive care for women across the US. "An injunction here would interfere with the interests of every state in the country," said Julie Harris of the US Justice Department, which represented the FDA. One of the chief arguments leveled against the FDA in the lawsuit is that the agency misused its authority when it originally approved the abortion pill. In the FDA's accelerated approval program, "the plain text is clear it applies to illnesses," argued Erik Baptist, the alliance's lead attorney. "Mifepristone is used to end pregnancies, and pregnancy isn’t an illness."

(More abortion pill stories.)

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