Potential ban on mifepristone: Texas judge to hear case that could affect medical abortions in the US

A Texas judge is set to hear arguments on Wednesday, March 15, at 9:00 a.m., in a case that could outlaw mifepristone, one of the drugs used in medical abortions. Currently, mifepristone is used in more than half of all U.S. abortions. In 2021, 8,311 medical abortions took place in the Commonwealth, just over 49% of the state's total number of abortions that year.

If Matthew Kacsmaryk, a U.S. District Court judge in Amarillo, rules against the Justice Department, representing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and in favor of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a lawsuit against the FDA's approval of the abortion drug, medical abortion would effectively be illegal, including here in Massachusetts. 

As of July 2022, MA state colleges and universities are required to make the abortion pills available to their students, and in January 2023, the FDA approved sales of the pills at pharmacies like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Increasing access to the drugs by such measures will result in greater numbers of unborn lives lost and more women's lives endangered.

The pills are intended for use up to the 10th week of pregnancy, by which time all of a human being's biological systems are already formed

Attorney Patricia Stewart, Executive Director at Massachusetts Citizens for Life, explains why mifepristone should not have been approved by the FDA in 2000. "Chemical abortion drugs pose increased risks of medical complications for women and girls. These threats include heightened risks of undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy and alloimmunization, with potentially deadly consequences for their baby in future pregnancies. It is well past time to end this public health threat," she said. "We look forward with great hope that Judge Kacsmaryk will correct the FDA’s egregious failing to thoroughly study mifepristone before unleashing it on an unsuspecting public."

According to The Washington Post, Wednesday's hearing will not be added to the public court docket until tomorrow (Tuesday, March 14), an uncommon delay presumed to limit public and media presence at the courthouse.

The paper reported Saturday that, after Kacsmaryk hears arguments, "the judge could rule at any time, potentially upending access to medication abortions across the country. . . . A decision by Kacsmaryk to suspend FDA approval of mifepristone would immediately prompt major changes in how many abortion clinics across the country provide care. Some are planning to immediately switch to a misoprostol-only protocol, while others are planning to offer only surgical abortions. Any decision would likely be appealed to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and possibly to the Supreme Court."

The report acknowledged the equally serious side effects of medical abortion when only one drug is used, adding, "It is also possible to terminate a pregnancy using just misoprostol, a procedure that requires three doses of four pills each. While misoprostol is widely used on its own to perform abortions around the world, studies show it is less effective than the two-step regimen, and usually causes more cramping and bleeding."

We will send you more information as it becomes available. For now, please keep Judge Kacsmaryk and his family in mind, as abortion-rights activists have vowed to strongly oppose any ruling which they perceive to be unfavorable.