US states and others join court battle over abortion pill
By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) – Dozens of US attorneys general on Friday weighed a lawsuit seeking a court order blocking nationwide access to a drug used for medical abortion, with Republicans backing the lawsuit and Democrats warning of “devastating consequences”. , if it is successful .
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Amarillo, Texas last year, anti-abortion activists, including the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, allege that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used an improper process to approve the drug mifepristone in 2000 and its did not adequately consider security.
The lawsuit in Amarillo ensured the case was brought before US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a stalwart conservative and former Christian activist.
The government has countered that the drug’s approval was fully supported by evidence and that 22 years later the challenge comes far too late.
Medical abortion has attracted increasing attention since the US Supreme Court passed its landmark Roe v. Wade repealed the 1973 law that guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, directed federal agencies to expand access to medical abortion in response to the decision.
Mifepristone is used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, for medical abortions, which account for more than half of abortions in the United States.
Friday’s filing by 22 Republican attorneys general, led by Mississippi’s Lynn Fitch and including her Texas and Ohio counterparts, agreed with the plaintiffs that the drug had not been properly approved. They also said that some of the FDA’s recent efforts to make it more accessible, including the agency’s 2021 policy allowing it to be given through the mail rather than in person, could violate state laws restricting the drug.
“By obstructing the judgments of elected officials, the agency has undermined the public interest,” they said.
The 22 Democratic attorney generals, led by Letitia James of New York and including attorneys general from California and Massachusetts, said the approval of mifepristone was “consistent with the overwhelming medical consensus and backed by ample evidence.” They said ending access to the drug would force patients to have unnecessary surgical abortions or prevent them from accessing abortions at all.
Other outside parties also filed briefs Friday, including a group of legal scholars supporting the government and 67 Republican congressmen and a coalition of anti-abortion groups including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which supports the plaintiffs.
The FDA and Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative rights group representing the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Texas lawsuit could move quickly, as plaintiffs in a filing filed Friday asked Kacsmaryk to skip a hearing based on an interim order and instead go straight to court.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York, editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)