Future uncertain for commonly used abortion pill 'mifepristone' as DOJ appeals Texas ruling

Rosie Nguyen Image
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Safety at heart of conservatives' intent on mifepristone challenge
Eyewitness News spoke to advocates for and against abortion in the wake of a ruling that delays the FDA approval of mifepristone, an abortion pill.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the latest on the fight for women's reproductive rights, the U.S. Justice Department filed a motion Monday to block a Friday ruling by a Texas federal judge that would have stopped the sale of mifepristone. It's one of the most commonly used drugs for abortions that the FDA approved 23 years ago.

Groups in support of abortion rights said the move did not come as a surprise to them, believing this is just the latest partisan political move by conservatives.

"Anytime there's a decision like this that we know is going to be so devastating for healthcare access and especially access to abortion care, it is very alarming," Dr. Bhavik Kumar, medical director for primary and trans care at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, said.

RELATED: Judge reverses FDA approval of abortion drug after 23 years

Anti-abortion advocates said this decision technically has no bearing in our state since abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy in Texas.

However, conservatives still express concern that the FDA did not properly vet and do its due diligence when approving mifepristone. Alliance Defending Freedom, the group that filed the Texas lawsuit, called the drug "unsafe."

"Our goal is to protect life. We know this ruling doesn't really impact where we are. But we still want to advocate for the protection of women's health, safety, and well-being nationwide," Amy O'Donnell, communications director for Texas Alliance for Life, said. "The FDA improperly approved mifepristone without putting it through the steps that it should have before putting it out on the market."

Medical professionals, including those from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, disagree with this argument.

Dr. Rashmi Kudesia, an OBGYN and fertility specialist at Houston Methodist, asserts that there are no safety concerns over the use of this drug, and it is one of the best options for women needing abortion services.

"As somebody that prescribes a variety of medications on a regular basis, mifepristone is very safe. The data around it has been abundant and continues to be within the world of reproductive health," she said.

READ MORE: DOJ asks appeals court for an emergency stay of abortion pill ruling

Kudesia explained that mifepristone is a part of a two-drug regimen, paired along with misoprostol for second-trimester pregnancy termination.

"Without access to mifepristone, the risks of pregnancy termination using misoprostol alone are actually higher. This ruling, if allowed to stand, will further restrict the options when a pregnancy is not safe to continue," Kudesia said.

What further complicated the fight on mifepristone is a Washington state judge issued a conflicting decision on the same day as the Texas ruling. The decision was made on a similar case brought forth by Democratic attorney generals and blocked the FDA from pulling the drug off the market, causing confusion among some doctors on what to do.

Kumar said despite the back and forth, mifepristone will still be available until at least Friday, seven days after the Texas ruling.

"Right now, things are status quo. Abortion access is the same as it was before either one of these rulings. Nothing has changed. People that need to access this care should know that they still have the ability to access it in the same way as they were before," he said.

With the Justice Department's appeal, the decision on mifepristone now lies in the hands of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court. Advocates on both sides of the debate anticipate that this case will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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