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Helen Geckle / Gavel Media

Unpacking the Mifepristone Rulings

After being approved by the Food and Drug Administration twenty years ago and being deemed safe by medical groups, Mifepristone has been used in about half of abortions nationwide—but the lifesaving drug is now in jeopardy. In Texas, a coalition of anti-abortion groups named the "Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine" sued the FDA claiming the drug should have never been approved. On April 7, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a conservative Trump appointee, declared the FDA’s approval invalid but allowed seven days for the injunction to take effect, allowing appeals courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, to weigh in. However, this ruling contrasts with a ruling made simultaneously in Washington state by Obama appointee U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice. On the same day, Rice ruled that the FDA cannot alter access to Mifepristone while these lawsuits are still pending, preserving the drug's accessible status. 

Finally, after a multiple-day delay, on April 12, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked decisions banning or limiting Mifepristone, but only temporarily. There are still many appeals to the Texas decision in the process, but once those are over, the case will go back to the Fifth Circuit of Appeals around mid-May. No matter the outcome of that decision, it will most likely go back to the Supreme Court for a more permanent decision.  

Looking past the complicated legal drama, it’s integral to understand the implications of banning medicine that has been used safely for twenty years to help women in need. Medicines like Mifepristone were already used in many abortions and miscarriages. Since the Biden Administration began allowing abortion medicine to be sent in the mail during the pandemic, it has further proved necessary because of its accessibility. Especially since the pandemic and the overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022, many women don’t have access, time, or money for a surgical abortion. This safe, well-tested, accessible medical regimen is often life-saving for those who need an abortion or a medically assisted miscarriage. 

The larger implications of overturning a decades-long approval of a medicine by the FDA could be detrimental. As said by Jane Henney, the former FDA commissioner who approved Mifepristone, “The FDA review and approval process is one in which politics are not taken into consideration.” Prioritizing politics instead of people’s well-being when it comes to medicine has already set a terrible precedent since Roe v. Wade was overturned, which is how this case even came to be. If Mifepristone is banned, this precedent will be further reinforced. The fact that groups are undermining the FDA approval process because they don’t like the result of the medicine is quite frankly absurd. If a medicine is deemed safe and has gone through a thorough research process—which according to most scientists it has—and provides necessary, life-saving care for millions of women, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be available.  

The politicization of healthcare should be a foreign, universally frowned upon idea, but unfortunately in the United States, that has never been the case. Because of politics, the U.S. is the only one of its peers to not have universal public healthcare, and the effects are drastic. Out of eleven peer countries, all of which have universal healthcare, when reviewing accessibility, efficiency, care, equity, and outcomes, the United States is ranked last. The waning ability to provide abortion and miscarriage care is just a fraction of this larger broken healthcare system. No one's ill-informed opinions should get to choose how individuals get treatment—the only people to have decision-making authority regarding one’s health should be the person themselves and their doctor. Yes, Mifepristone is staying on the market for now, but the overturn of Roe v. Wade and the larger picture of the U.S. healthcare system prove that we aren’t safe unless the American people and politicians reevaluate their priorities.

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