The Mifepristone Decision: What Does It Mean, And What Can We Do?

On Thursday, April 13, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that mifepristone, a commonly prescribed abortion medication, can still be administered, but with new regulations. Here’s what this means for our families and their rights to reproductive autonomy.

Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine vs. FDA

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a group of anti-abortion activists, originally sued the FDA in 2022, and last week, Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that the FDA improperly approved mifepristone. The abortion medication, which was first approved by the FDA 23 years ago, has extremely high safety and efficacy records, and it has been used by over five million people in the U.S. to safely end their pregnancies. In the U.S., medication abortion is used for more than half of all abortions. On the same day as Kacsmaryk’s ruling, a federal court in Washington state ruled to protect access to mifepristone in Washington and 17 other states, contradicting Kacsmaryk’s decision.

This case was deliberately filed in Amarillo, Texas so that it would be assigned to Judge Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump and has repeatedly struck down on abortion access, immigration policy and LGBTQ+ rights. His ruling is based on outrageous conjecture that poses severe implications regarding the overreach of district courts, and it is a calculated attack on reproductive rights. It threatens the FDA’s authority over the approval process for medications and could result in a devastating nationwide ban on mifepristone — even in states where abortion is protected.

The 5th Circuit Decision and What’s Next

On Wednesday, April 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that the drug can no longer be dispensed through mail and shortened the length of time the drug can be used during pregnancy from 10 weeks to 7 weeks. For now, mifepristone is still available, but these new regulations will dramatically restrict its accessibility, especially to patients who rely on telehealth services and receive prescriptions by mail. The Justice Department has intervened, and the case is on its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. For D.C. and the 17 states that have taken action to protect access to mifepristone, regulations will remain unchanged unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise. 

In the meantime, many states have already begun stocking extra quantities of misoprostol, another abortion medication that can be administered instead of mifepristone. However, people should have access to the full spectrum of abortion care options. We applaud the Biden Administration’s swift response to the 5th Circuit’s decision. The Supreme Court should observe the Justice Department’s request for emergency relief and protect access to this vital component of reproductive health.

What Can We Do Right Now?

On Saturday, April 15, Planned Parenthood is beginning a Bans Off Our Bodies Weekend of Action. Join advocates for reproductive freedom and Speak Out for Abortion Access at the Supreme Court on Saturday, April 15 from noon-1 p.m EDT. If you can’t make it this weekend or don’t live in D.C., you can still urge the courts to reverse this terrible decision. Sign the People’s Brief c4 here and c3 People’s Brief c4 here.

Everyone should have the ability to make decisions about their own reproductive lives and futures, and we will fight to defend those freedoms as long as they are in jeopardy.