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February 26, 2024

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Texas Federal Judge Halts US Approval Of Abortion Pill

A combination pack of mifepristone (L) and misoprostol tablets, two medicines used together to cause an abortion
AFP

A conservative federal judge in the state of Texas halted US approval of the abortion pill mifepristone on Friday, but paused implementation for a week to give federal authorities time to appeal.

The suit against the Food and Drug Administration is the latest step in the campaign to win a total ban on abortion following a landmark Supreme Court ruling last year. It takes aim at a pill involved in 53 percent of all abortions in the United States, or more than half a million every year.

“FDA’s approval of mifepristone is hereby STAYED,” Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk wrote in his decision, adding that the court was also halting “applicability of this opinion and order for seven (7) days.”

While the FDA has never been challenged like this before on its approval of a drug that has proven safe and effective, the plaintiffs — a coalition of anti-abortion groups — counted on being able to win a national freeze on distribution of mifepristone.

Presiding over the case in federal court in Amarillo, Texas is Kacsmaryk, who was appointed to the bench by Republican former president Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate in 2019.

The judge is a conservative Christian with a personal history of opposition to abortion and a court record of favoring right-wing causes.

The case landed in his court via what critics call “judge-shopping,” in which plaintiffs take legal action in a district where the judge has a history of rulings that support their case.

Federal judges in the United States have a right to issue rulings that carry national legal force.

Democratic politicians were quick to react on social media.

“This ruling opens a new door to politicizing medicine,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul posted on Twitter. “Extremists will not stop at stripping away abortion rights.”

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren posted that “because of today’s lawless ruling, women could lose access to a safe and legal medication they’ve relied on for decades.”

One component of a two-drug regimen used for medication abortion, mifepristone can be used in the United States through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

It has a long safety record, and the FDA estimates 5.6 million Americans have used it to terminate pregnancies since it was approved.

While abortion care has halted in more than a dozen states after the Supreme Court overturned the long-established constitutional right last June, it is still legal in dozens more.