Women's Reproductive Rights: US Court Preserves Access To Abortion Pill For Now, But With Tighter Rules

  • A U.S. federal appeals court has temporarily blocked a decision by a Texas judge to halt the FDA's approval of a widely used abortion drug.
  • The abortion pill mifepristone will remain available in the U.S. for now but with some restrictions, including requiring in-person doctor visits to obtain the drug and limiting its use to the first seven weeks of pregnancy from the current ten, a federal appeals court ruled.
  • Related Content: New York and California Prepare For Potential Mifepristone Ban In Texas With Stockpiling Of Alternative Abortion Medications.
  • In his last week ruling, Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered pulling mifepristone from the market in seven days, saying the FDA had violated federal rules that allowed for the accelerated approval of some drugs. 
  • The order was set to take effect on Friday.
  • The Biden administration, the anti-abortion groups, or both could also seek to appeal immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court, Reuters reported.
  • Wednesday's ruling came from a panel of three 5th Circuit judges, two appointed by then-President Donald Trump and one by George W. Bush, both Republicans, Reuters added.
  • Judge Catharina Haynes, the Bush appointee, partly dissented, saying she would have temporarily blocked Kacsmaryk's order entirely.
  • The emergency stay is meant to remain in place until the 5th Circuit can hear the Biden administration's appeal of Kacsmaryk's order more fully. 
  • It was first approved for the termination of pregnancy up until seven weeks gestation.
  • The 2016 changes, among other things, reduced the number of in-person visits that patients must make from three to one and allowed the pills to be prescribed to women at up to 10 weeks gestation instead of up to seven weeks.
  • Photo via Wikimedia Commons
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