A Texas lawsuit could force a popular abortion pill off the market

A conservative Christian group filed a suit against the FDA, alleging the agency did not have the authority to approve the use of two abortion pills; mifepristone and misoprostol.

This week, a Texas judge appointed by former President Donald Trump heard oral arguments in a case that could make it difficult for women to terminate their pregnancies. 

According to NPR, on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk listened to hours-long arguments after Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal advocacy group, filed a motion to seek a preliminary injunction that would either remove a popular abortion pill from the market or restrict its availability to the public. 

Pro-choice activists protest during a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in response to the leaked Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade May 3, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This injunction comes after the conservative group filed a suit against the Food and Drug Administration, alleging the federal agency did not have the authority to approve the use of two abortion pills: mifepristone and misoprostol.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, along with other abortion opponents, participated in the Mississippi case that eventually led to Roe v. Wade being overturned, no longer guaranteeing a federal right to an abortion. 

What is mifepristone?

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000, which is taken with another drug called misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy up to 10 weeks.

According to the FDA, a patient looking to end a pregnancy would first take mifepristone orally. The pill would then dilate the cervix and stop the hormone progesterone from sustaining a pregnancy. 

After 24-48 hours of ingesting mifepristone, the patient would place misoprostol in an area in the body that is most fitting for the patient. The pill would then dissolve on its own and would work to continue the process of terminating the pregnancy.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there has been an uptick in prescribing the drug to patients around the country, the Associated Press reported.

If Judge Kacsmaryk rules to prohibit the future use of mifepristone, then doctors and clinics will only prescribe misoprostol, which is less effective in terminating pregnancies. 

What are the main arguments?

Lawyers for the Department of Justice presented oral arguments on behalf of the FDA and argued that removing mifepristone from the market would reverse reproductive care for women.

A sign for the U.S. Department of Justice is shown before officials hold a press conference on Jan. 12, 2021 to give an update on the investigation into the Capitol Hill riots in Washington, D.C. A recent report reveals that deaths in custody go underreported to the Department of Justice despite a law saigned in 2014 that requires law enforcement agencies to do so. (Photo: Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

Justice Department attorney Julie Straus Harris said, “An injunction here would interfere with the interests of every state in the country.” 

Meanwhile, Alliance Defending Freedom argues that the FDA should revoke or suspend the use of mifepristone because it overstepped its authority and that the agency erred when it approved the use of mifepristone under its accelerated approval program. 

Erik Baptist, the group’s lead attorney, contends that the FDA approves “drugs for cancer and other ‘serious or life-threatening diseases.’” 

“The plain text is clear it applies to illnesses…mifepristone is used to end pregnancies, and pregnancy isn’t an illness,” he said.

What’s next?

According to the Associated Press, Judge Kacsmaryk will rule on this case “as soon as possible.” 

If the judge prohibits the use of mifepristone, it could take anywhere from months to years for the FDA to remove the drug from the market.

However, it is expected that the Department of Justice would appeal the decision and put an emergency stay in place to prevent the ruling from taking effect. 

If this happens, this case could go before the Supreme Court.

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