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National Right to Life on the U.S. Supreme Court Decision Regarding the Abortion Drug Mifepristone

by | Apr 21, 2023

Decision Stays Lower Court Ruling Returns the Issue to the 5th Circuit for Full Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court released a decision that stayed lower court rulings and returned the issue to the 5th Circuit for a full hearing in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Chemical abortion drugs will stay on the market, for now. However, the full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the case in a hearing scheduled for May 17.

“We are hopeful that when the court takes up the expedited hearing on May 17 that it will confirm the fact that these drugs are dangerous to women,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life.

The case was brought by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the abortion drug mifepristone.

Justice Alito dissented from today’s decision, writing about the ruling of the three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit:

It would simply restore the circumstances that existed (and that the Government defended) from 2000 to 2016 under three Presidential administrations.

The circumstances that existed from 2000 to 2016 were a series of protections meant to reduce the many dangers of chemical abortions.

“The U.S. Supreme Court gives the full 5th Circuit the opportunity to evaluate the case on its merits and review the materials presented to them in a timely fashion,” said Tobias. “What the courts will see is a drug that does not cure a disease or alleviate the symptoms of a disease. It was developed to take the life of an unborn child and always has the potential to harm the mother.”

In the lawsuit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the plaintiffs argued that the FDA unlawfully fast-tracked the approval of mifepristone through a process intended for the treatment of life-threatening illnesses.

On April 13, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit removed the 2016, 2021, and 2023 changes to the FDA’s loosening of the original safeguards it applied to mifepristone and left in place the original requirements that it be used only up to 7 weeks of pregnancy, including three physician visits; removed the ability for the drug to be mailed or dispensed by pharmacies; prevented non-physicians from prescribing the drug and reinstated the reporting requirements for non-fatal adverse events. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court stays the 5th Circuit three-judge panel decision while the case is under review by the full 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the research organization affiliated with the abortion industry, approximately 54% of all abortions are done using chemical abortion methods like mifepristone and misoprostol.

Mifepristone is used in combination with misoprostol, a prostaglandin, to cause an abortion. Mifepristone blocks progesterone, leading to the death of the unborn baby, while the second drug, misoprostol, causes powerful, painful uterine contractions to expel the dead or dying baby.

The FDA recently weakened the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) requirements for the drug to allow it to be dispensed and even mailed by pharmacies. Prior to those 2023 changes, the FDA had previously weakened the protocols for mifepristone by:

(1) increasing the maximum gestational age at which a woman can use the drug from 49 to 70 days; (2) reducing the number of required in-person office visits from three to one; (3) allowing non-doctors to prescribe and administer the chemical abortions drugs; and (4) eliminating the requirement for prescribers to report non-fatal adverse events from chemical abortion (Page 5 of the decision of the three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.)

“When hundreds of thousands of women take these pills, even a couple of percentage points of women hemorrhaging, dealing with infections, or ectopic pregnancy, represents thousands of women desperately seeking treatment, which may or may not be nearby,” said Dr. Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., director of Education and Research for National Right to Life.

On April 5, National Right to Life released a white paper about the myths involving the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval and management of mifepristone (generic for Mifeprex).

Addressing Many of the Myths the Media is Repeating about the FDA’s Approval and Management of Mifeprex (Mifepristone) can be accessed here.

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