U.S. states, others weigh in on court battle over abortion pill
By Brendan Pierson
Feb 10 (Reuters) – Dozens of U.S. state attorneys general on Friday weighed in on a lawsuit seeking a court order blocking access nationwide to a drug used in medication abortion, with Republicans in support of the lawsuit and Democrats warning of “devastating consequences” if it succeeds.
In the lawsuit, filed last year in Amarillo, Texas federal court, anti-abortion groups including the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine claim the U.S. Food and Drug Administration used an improper process to approve the drug mifepristone in 2000, and did not adequately consider its safety.
Suing in Amarillo ensured that the case would go before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a reliable conservative and former Christian activist.
The government has countered that the drug’s approval was fully supported by evidence, and that the challenge, 22 years after the fact, comes much too late.
Medication abortion has drawn increasing attention since the U.S. Supreme Court last year reversed its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which had guaranteed abortion rights nationwide. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, directed federal agencies to expand access to medication abortion in response to the decision.
Mifepristone is used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, for medication abortion, which accounts for more than half of U.S. abortions.
Friday’s filing by 22 Republican attorneys general, led by Mississippi’s Lynn Fitch and including her peers from Texas and Ohio, agreed with the plaintiffs that the drug had been improperly approved. They also said that some recent FDA efforts to make it more accessible, including the agency’s 2021 policy allowing it to be dispensed by mail rather than in person, could violate state laws restricting the drug.
“By obstructing the judgments of elected representatives, the agency has undermined the public interest,” they said.
The 22 Democratic attorneys general, led by New York’s Letitia James and including the AGs from California and Massachusetts, said mifepristone’s approval was “consistent with the overwhelming medical consensus and supported by voluminous evidence.” They said ending access to the drug would force patients to have unnecessary surgical abortions or prevent them from accessing abortion altogether.
Other outside parties also submitted briefs on Friday, including a group of legal scholars supporting the government, and 67 Republican members of Congress and a coalition of anti-abortion groups including Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America supporting the plaintiffs.
The FDA and Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative legal group representing the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Texas lawsuit could move quickly, as the plaintiffs in a filing on Friday asked Kacsmaryk to skip a hearing on a preliminary order and instead go straight to trial.
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