Court restores abortion pill safeguards

Boston, MA, April 13, 2023 – Chemical abortion will remain legal in America, for now, but greater safety standards for its use have been reinstated. Last night, a federal appeals court in New Orleans returned restrictions to chemical abortion in the United States, the latest in legal challenges to the use of mifepristone.

The court’s 2-1 ruling late Wednesday, April 12, means that mifepristone, the first of two pills commonly used in chemical abortions

  • can only be used up to about seven weeks of pregnancy, not ten as has been the legal limit to date
  • requires three in-person doctor’s visits instead of none at all
  • can no longer be sent to patients through the mail. 

These limitations had been in place before 2016. But since then, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had loosened such requirements to allow more widespread access to chemical abortion. 

The panel noted that yesterday’s decision is not the final one, and that oral arguments will be scheduled soon.

“Yesterday’s ruling means Massachusetts women and girls will be safer,” said Massachusetts Citizens for Life President Myrna Maloney Flynn. “Requiring physicians to closely monitor women to whom they prescribe chemical abortion drugs, in person and at various points during the process, makes sense. Limiting mifepristone to the 7th week of pregnancy instead of the 10th also means that risks for serious health complications decrease,” she said.

“However, though we are pleased that such restrictions are back in place, we must not forget the truths that remain. Mifepristone is a drug which has one singular purpose: to end the life of a human being. Chemical abortion is far more dangerous than surgical procedures, as abortion pills have a complication rate four times higher than other abortion methods, and are more likely to result in emergency room visits,” Maloney Flynn continued. “As many as one in five women will experience complications, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.”

Last Friday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kaczmaryk ordered a hold on federal approval of mifepristone. The appeals court decision narrows his decision, while still imposing significant limits on how the abortion pill can be used now.

“Last night’s Fifth Circuit decision is a step forward for the rule of law,” Kristen Waggoner, CEO & President of Alliance Defending Freedom wrote In a tweet this morning. “Critical safeguards removed by the FDA will be restored and abortion by mail will end. The FDA put politics over science when it unlawfully approved dangerous chemical abortion drugs,” she continued. “Girls and women are safer today.” Alliance Defending Freedom represented pro-life plaintiffs before Kaczmaryk.

It is widely believed that the Supreme Court will ultimately review lower courts’ decisions on the legality of mifepristone.