What do all these federal court cases mean?
Last week, a federal judge in Texas issued a groundbreaking ruling blocking the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 2000 approval of the chemical abortion pill. In the furious media coverage since the decision, important information is being left out. Here’s what they’re not telling you: the FDA has been stonewalling legal challenges for 20 years, and stripping away more and more protections all the while at the behest of the abortion industry. Now it finally appears headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
How did this happen? What comes next? And what role will Kansas play?
Why it matters: In 2021, more than ⅔ of abortions in Kansas were performed through the chemical method. The abortion industry continues pushing for ever-looser restrictions on administration of the pills and markets to women from other states to travel here for abortions. Preborn babies’, women’s, and girls’ lives hang in the balance.
The collision course set in motion decades ago is now coming to a head as conflicting rulings at the district court level will push this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Basic Timeline of the FDA actions on Chemical Abortion pill and legal challenges
- 2000 – U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves chemical abortion during the Clinton Administration
- 2002 – Plaintiffs file legal challenge of the 2000 approval. Federal law requires the FDA to respond within “180 days of receipt of the petition.” Instead the FDA stonewalls judicial review for 16 years.
- 2016 – FDA removes protections for women: changes permissible use from seven to 10 weeks’ gestation (increasing the mother’s risk of adverse complications), increases dosage amounts, reduces the number of required in-person doctor visits from three to one, gives prescribing privileges to non-doctors, and eliminates the reporting of non-fatal complications from chemical abortion drugs. These changes make the drugs more dangerous for women, while at the same time removing oversight and tracking of the harmful consequences of their decisions.
- November 2021– Medical journal publishes a large, longitudinal study of emergency room visits following chemical and surgical abortions. The study shows a 500% increase in abortion-related ER visits after the approval of chemical abortion pills and even greater risks to mothers than surgical abortions. Meanwhile, the abortion industry continues its claims that ingesting chemical abortion pills are as safe as taking Advil.
- December 2021 – FDA announces that chemical abortion pills will now be made permanently available through the mail in direct violation of longstanding federal law. Mail order abortion pills add new layers of danger for women and girls who forgo essential in-person exams that would confirm weeks of the pregnancy and diagnose potentially fatal complications such as ectopic pregnancies.
- November 2022 – Pro-life medical organizations (Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists) and other doctors sue the FDA, stating it lacked authority to approve the chemical abortion pill, and failed to follow required protocol nor properly study its safety.
- January 2023 – FDA further loosened restrictions on sales of chemical abortion pills, allowing major pharmacy chains to dispense
- April 7, 2023 – U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (Texas) issues a fact-based ruling against the FDA. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk writes, “The Court does not second-guess FDA’s decision-making lightly. But here, FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns-in violation of its statutory duty-based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions.” The FDA and the Biden Administration immediately appealed the judge’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
- April 7, 2023 – The same day, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice (Washington state) issued a ruling saying the FDA could not suspend its approval of mifepristone in 17 states and Washington, D.C.
- April 12, 2023 – Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach joins 18 other state attorneys general in a legal brief to the Court urging it to uphold the ruling blocking the FDA’s approval of the chemical abortion pill. Other states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
- April 12, 2023 – The U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, temporarily blocked the Texas ruling, but reinstated some previous restrictions on the drug including blocking mail-order and pharmacy dispensed pills and limiting the drug to the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
- April 13, 2023 – The Biden Administration’s Justice Department issues a statement that it will appeal the circuit court ruling restricting the abortion pill all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- April 14, 2023 – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito issues a temporary stay of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that imposed limited restrictions so justices have time to review the case. The order keeps the status quo regarding the availability of chemical abortion pills until Wednesday at midnight.
While the legal process continues, Kansas women need to know about the inherent risks of chemical abortion pills to their bodies, which have been hidden by the abortion industry for too long. Again, nearly 68% of abortions in the state are performed using these dangerous chemical abortion pills. One in five women who undergo a chemical abortion will suffer a complication and require further medical attention, so the ruling is an important step towards correcting the FDA’s unwise decision to sidestep protocol and remove safeguards for women’s health and safety.
Pregnant women considering chemical abortion also have a right to information about the Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) protocol, should they change their minds about completing their chemical abortion and wish to try to save their babies. To date, over 4,000 babies have been saved by APR. The Kansas legislature recently passed House Bill 2264, to give women easy access to information about APR and where they can go for timely medical help. The bill has been sent to the governor and awaits her action.
We will keep you updated about this and all urgent pro-life issues in Kansas.