Biden Vows To Fight Unprecedented Abortion Pill Ban

The Texas ruling has potentially explosive implications for abortion access nationwide.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

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President Biden slammed the unprecedented Friday-night ruling by a Texas judge that suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone—a drug that has been used in medical abortions for over two decades. As my colleague Madison Pauly explained last night, the case has potentially explosive implications for the availability of abortion nationwide.

Biden called the decision a “political, ideological” attack, and accused the court of substituting its own judgment over that of the “expert” FDA’s judgment in a formal statement that the White House issued on Friday.

The president said in the statement that he would fight the ruling but called on Congress to legislate on the matter: “The only way to stop those who are committed to taking away women’s rights and freedoms in every state is to elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring Roe versus Wade.”

Earlier on Friday, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk issued an order that would suspend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. The order takes effect in seven days, giving the federal government time to ask the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to potentially block it. Through the Department of Justice, the Biden administration is already seeking an emergency stay of the order from the court.

Attorney General Merrick Garland also said in a statement on Friday that the Justice Department “strongly disagrees” with Kacsmaryk’s decision.

Kacsmaryk’s decision was based on the premise that the FDA rushed approval of the drug. The pill was approved over 20 years ago after a four-year review process and has since been used in roughly 50 percent of abortions. 

Mother Jones’s Madison Pauly recently wrote about the safety and efficacy of mifepristone:

The medication at issue in the lawsuit, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, has been approved by the FDA for over two decades as part of a two-drug regimen to end pregnancies within the first 10 weeks. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, causing pregnant peoples’ uterine lining and implanted embryo to begin breaking down. The second drug in the regimen, the anti-ulcer drug misoprostol, is taken 24 to 48 hours later to soften the cervix and cause contractions. The drugs can be taken safely at home and are successful in 99.6 percent of cases, according to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

As Madison wrote, Kacsmaryk’s ruling came about as a result of anti-abortion activists intentionally filing the case in his district after he used controversial legal arguments and theories to rule in favor of regressive, reactionary cases.

But in a strategic move, Alliance Defending Freedom filed the complaint in Amarillo, Texas—virtually guaranteeing that it would be heard by Judge Kacsmaryk. A former staff attorney for a religious-right legal firm, the controversial judge was already known for making anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ statements at the time he was nominated by Trump and confirmed by a Republican Senate. Since then, conservative legal activists have been lining up to send him their cases—and he’s delivered, forcing the Biden administration to reinstate Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” border policy. In two cases late last year, Kacsmaryk ruled that anti-LGBTQ discrimination was permissible in heath care and struck down a rule that had promised confidentiality to teens who sought birth control from federally funded family planning programs. Both lawsuits happen to have been filed by former Texas solicitor general Jonathan Mitchell, the architect of the state’s 6-week abortion ban and its “bounty hunter” enforcement mechanism.

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