Health Law

Can court ban abortion pill? Federal judge considers authority, plaintiffs' standing

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Bottles of the drug misoprostol sit on a table at the West Alabama Women’s Center in March 2022 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It is used for abortions in combination with another drug, mifepristone, which has been available for nearly 23 years. Photo by Allen G. Breed/The Associated Press.

A federal judge in Texas is promising a quick ruling on a lawsuit seeking to ban abortion pills on the ground that they are unsafe and wrongly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, “seemed open” to arguments by the anti-abortion plaintiffs, the Washington Post reports.

Other publications with coverage include Reuters, Courthouse News Service and the New York Times.

The drug is mifepristone, which has been available for nearly 23 years, according to the New York Times. It is used for abortions in combination with another drug, misoprostol.

“The hearing was the first public session in a case that could have far-reaching consequences for states where abortion is still legal, not just for those trying to restrict it,” the New York Times reports. “Medication is the method used in more than half of abortions in the United States, and since last year’s Supreme Court ruling overturning the national right to abortion, the pills have increasingly become the focus of political and legal battles.”

Kacsmaryk asked whether a court has the authority to withdraw approval for a drug, whether the plaintiffs have standing and whether a 150-year-old law bans the mailing of drugs used to produce abortion. He also questioned a recent FDA decision to allow mifepristone to be mailed, rather than administered in person by a doctor.

The suit plaintiffs are four doctors and four anti-abortion medical groups. One group is the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which was incorporated in Amarillo, Texas, just three months before the suit was filed, according to Reuters. The plaintiffs are represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal advocacy group.

Kacsmaryk is a favorite judge for litigants pursuing conservative causes and opposing Biden administration policies. He is assigned any case filed in Amarillo, Texas.

Courthouse News Service described Kacsmaryk’s demeanor in court Wednesday as “attentive” and said he asked detailed questions of both sides.

“His questions for the feds, though, often seemed more pointed, and those for the anti-abortion lawyers more friendly,” the article reported.

According to the Washington Post, Kacsmaryk could issue a broad order for the drug be withdrawn or a more limited ruling on how the drug is dispensed.

The Washington Post described Kacsmaryk as “a devout Christian” who begins his hearings with a clerk calling for prayer. The hearing Wednesday began the same way.

See also: “Suit filed on behalf of women denied abortions in Texas despite dangerous health complications” “Wrongful death suit accuses 3 women of helping man’s then-wife obtain abortion pills”

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