- Two federal judges issued contradicting rulings on the abortion pill mifepristone on Friday.
- A Texas judge imposed a stay on the FDA’s approval of the drug, while a Washington judge disagreed.
- The dueling rulings set up a likely battle in the Supreme Court.
Two federal judges issued dueling rulings regarding the abortion pill mifepristone on Friday afternoon, setting up a likely Supreme Court battle over whether or not the medication can be legally distributed in the US.
Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk sided with conservative, anti-abortion activists this week in an effort to block the distribution of mifepristone. The conservative justice, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, imposed a stay on the Food & Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the drug in a ruling that is set to take effect in one week, giving the Biden administration the chance to appeal the decision to a higher court.
But just minutes after the Texas ruling was made public, Washington State Judge Thomas O. Rice issued his own ruling on mifepristone, arguing the exact opposite of Kacsmaryk, and prohibiting the FDA from pulling the drug from the market. Rice said a nationwide injunction on the pill would be “inappropriate.”
The Texas lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing a coalition of medical groups and doctors who oppose abortion. The group alleged that mifepristone is dangerous and rallied against the FDA’s initial approval of it more than 20 years ago. Kacsmaryk’s Friday ruling was much anticipated, given his noted anti-abortion stance. Critics have accused the plaintiffs of seeking Kacsmaryk out specifically because of his Christian beliefs.
Meanwhile, in Washington State, several Democratic attorneys general filed a lawsuit against the FDA accusing the agency of excessively regulating the pill. The judge in the case responded by prohibiting the FDA from taking “any action” that would cause the drug to “become less available.”
It’s not immediately clear how the opposing rulings will affect one another, but it seems increasingly likely that mifepristone’s future will lie with the Supreme Court — the same body that overturned the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade last year in an unprecedented decision.
The Biden administration is almost certain to appeal the Texas ruling, and mifepristone remains available in states where it was already legal to purchase for at least one more week.