United States: Access to abortion pill in limbo after competing rulings

Access to the most commonly used method of abortion in the US has been plunged into uncertainty after conflicting court rulings on Friday over the legality of the medication Mifepristone, which has been widely available for more than 20 years.

For now, the drug the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2000 appeared to remain at least immediately available in the wake of two separate rulings that were issued in quick succession by federal judges in Texas and Washington.

US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, ordered a hold on federal approval of Mifepristone in a decision that overruled decades of scientific approval. But that decision came at nearly the same time that US District Judge Thomas O. Rice, an Obama appointee, essentially ordered the opposite and directed US authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the drug in at least 17 states where Democrats sued in an effort to protect availability.

The extraordinary timing of the competing orders revealed the high stakes surrounding the drug nearly a year after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and curtailed access to abortion across the country. President Joe Biden said his administration would fight the Texas ruling.

The whiplash of the conflicting decisions is likely to put the issue on an accelerated path to the Supreme Court.

“FDA is under one order that says you can do nothing and another that says in seven days I’m going to require you to vacate the approval of mifepristone,” Glenn Cohen of Harvard Law School told AP.

Abortion providers slammed the Texas ruling, including Whole Woman’s Health, which operates six clinics in five states. It said it would continue to dispense Mifepristone in person and by mail over the next week as they review the rulings.

The abortion drug has been widely used in the US since securing FDA approval and there is essentially no precedent for a lone judge overruling the medical decisions of the Food and Drug Administration. 

Mifepristone is one of two drugs used for medication abortion in the country, along with misoprostol, which is also used to treat other medical conditions.

For more watch Euronews’ report in the video above.

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