Texas Abortion Pill Ruling and Its Implications
In the year 2000, the United States’ Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved two chemical abortion drugs. The pair of drugs – mifepristone and misoprostol – are sometimes referred to as RU-486. Used in tandem, they reliably kill a preborn child: first, by starving the developing preborn child and causing it to detach from its mother’s uterus, and secondly by provoking contractions that expel the dead child.
Since the FDA approved RU-486, millions of abortions have been performed using these drugs. Indeed, so-called “medical” abortions (i.e., chemical abortions) have become so widespread, that they now account for over half of all abortions in the United States.
Chemical abortion has provided the multi-billion-dollar abortion industry with the ability to expand abortion by involving more providers outside a traditional abortion business, like Planned Parenthood. Through telemedicine services, the abortion industry is now able to go beyond the limitations of brick-and-mortar clinics by giving women access to abortion in a home setting, making abortions “self-managed” and unrestricted, despite the health risks this poses. This is why pro-abortion activists – concerned about their political, ideological, and financial goals – are up in arms after a federal judge challenged the legality of the FDA’s approval of mifepristone.
In a blockbuster ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk ruled that the FDA process that led to the approval of mifepristone showed serious irregularities and overlooked serious safety concerns with the drug. As such, he ordered the suspension of the FDA’s approval.
In handing down his decision, Judge Kacsmaryk gave a seven-day window for the Biden administration to appeal. Naturally, our pro-abortion “Catholic” president promptly ordered his Justice Department to do so. “My thoughts are it’s completely out of bounds what the judge did,” Biden told a reporter when asked about the judge’s decision.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit responded to the appeal by allowing the sales of mifepristone to continue, but only under much stricter conditions, while the appeal is adjudicated. Meanwhile, in another court, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice in Washington state issued a contradictory ruling moments after Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision, ordering the FDA not to restrict access to the abortion drug at all.
Given these dueling court decisions, the issue was almost certain to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily halted the court-imposed restrictions on the sale of mifepristone until the middle of next week, while the appeal continues.
Judge Says FDA Ignored Safety Concerns
In these columns, I often sing the praises of the many committed, savvy pro-life activists who grind away, hidden from the limelight, for years on end at various thankless tasks that, in time, produce enormous, good fruit in protecting preborn human life.
This is one such case. This latest blow to America’s abortionists comes thanks to a decades-long effort by a group of principled physicians and healthcare workers, and the pro-life attorneys who represent them. Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom filed their first citizens’ petition against the FDA’s approval of the “medical” abortion drugs in 2002. That petition was filed on behalf of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM), a group of nearly 30,000 healthcare professionals. It took the FDA fourteen years to reject that petition, at which point the ADF and the AHM tried again.
Not only did the FDA reject the petitions each time, but it continued to loosen regulations on the abortion drugs – allowing them to be taken later into pregnancy, with less medical supervision, including through the mail. In response, the ADF filed this latest lawsuit. And now, in a remarkable turn of events, Judge Kacsmaryk has strongly sided with the ADF and AHM.
The “FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns—in violation of its statutory duty—based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions,” the judge wrote in his decision.
In that decision, the judge highlights a laundry list of safety concerns with mifepristone, noting that “chemical abortions are over fifty percent more likely than surgical abortion to result in an emergency room visit within thirty days.” He also points to a study that found that adverse events were “fourfold higher” in chemical abortions than surgical abortions. In addition, there is evidence of serious psychological health risks associated with chemical abortions, including “anxiety, depression, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts.”
On top of all these concerns, “medical” abortions have a higher “failure rate,” he noted. That is to say, in some cases the child survives the “medical” abortion attempt. In such cases the child is often severely injured, but still alive. In most instances, the child’s mother will then go and get a surgical abortion, ensuring the death of the child.
In a rebuke to the FDA’s minimization of the serious safety concerns with chemical abortions, the judge wrote, “Contrary to popular belief and talking points, the evidence shows chemical abortion is not as easy as taking Advil.” Indeed, “Compelling evidence suggests the statistics provided by FDA on the adverse effects of chemical abortion understate the negative impact the chemical abortion regimen has on women and girls.”
The judge also suggested that there is “evidence indicating the FDA faced significant political pressure to forego its proposed safety precautions to better advance the political objective of increased ‘access’ to chemical abortion — which was the ‘whole idea of mifepristone.’”
In other words, politics, not science or safety, is what motivated the FDA to approve mifepristone.
The Truth: RU-486 Kills
As is too often the case, however, the one person missing from the entire conversation is the person whose life is ended in every abortion, i.e., the innocent preborn child.
We should indeed be horrified that a drug that injures women was approved by the FDA without due diligence, for political reasons. However, to call mifepristone an “unsafe” drug is as much as to say that the sky is blue. Of course, mifepristone is an “unsafe” drug. That’s the whole point of it!
Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid that blocks the action of progesterone, a hormone essential for the continuation of pregnancy. By inhibiting progesterone, mifepristone causes the breakdown of the uterine lining, resulting in the detachment of the living embryo from the uterus.
It’s whole function, in other words, is to kill.
Although this court case will not address the question of the harms to the preborn child, it is necessary that we remind ourselves of this brute fact. Even if mifepristone were proven to be the safest drug on the planet for women, it should not be approved by any “health” agency worthy of the name.
Pro-lifers Celebrate While Pro-aborts Panic
Although the case is far from settled, ADF Senior Counsel Erik Baptist, who represented the pro-life plaintiffs in court, hailed the judge’s decision. “By illegally approving dangerous chemical abortion drugs, the FDA put women and girls in harm’s way, and it’s high time the agency is held accountable for its reckless actions,” said Baptist.
He continued: “Pregnancy is not an illness, and chemical abortion drugs don’t provide a therapeutic benefit—they can pose serious and life-threatening complications to the mother, in addition to ending a baby’s life. The FDA never had the authority to approve these hazardous drugs or to remove important safeguards. This is a significant victory for the doctors and medical associations we represent and, more importantly, the health and safety of women and girls.”
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, also celebrated the ruling.
“The 5th Circuit was right to recognize the dangers of unrestricted chemical abortion to women’s health and safety,” he said in a statement. “We are grateful for the restoration of protections, and any limitation on the use of these lethal drugs. We hope that the final ruling will result in removal of chemical abortion from the market altogether. Abortion is never the right choice for a difficult or unexpected pregnancy, as it always ends one life and risks another. We pray ardently that our nation will authentically support and accompany women, so that ending the lives of their children alone in their own homes will be unthinkable.
Meanwhile, abortionists and pro-abortion activists are panicking. In a statement, Dr. Herminia Palacio, president of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, said that the impact of the court decision would be “devastating.” “Less than 10 months after the Supreme Court’s radical decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and the massive harm it inflicted, this ruling—if allowed to stand—would be another severe blow to abortion access in every state,” she said.
The governors of blue states such as Washington, New York, and California announced that their states will be stockpiling doses of the dangerous drugs. Some of these states have also announced that they will allow abortionists to commit abortions using only the second drug in the RU-486 cocktail – misoprostol – even though misoprostol-only abortions are well-known to be prone to “failure” and complications.
It is worth noting that abortion activists have been putting an enormous amount of energy into promoting “medical” abortions, particularly in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Abortionists have hoped that expanding “medical” abortions will allow abortion to be much more widely available at a time when innumerable abortion facilities around the country are shutting down.
Some abortion groups have openly stated their intention to mail abortion pills illegally to women in states where abortion is illegal. However, should mifepristone’s FDA approval be revoked, that will make it all that much harder to obtain the drug, let alone ship it to women who want to kill their children.
Pray for Victory
As already noted, the battle over mifepristone is far from over. For the moment, there are no practical changes in access to the drug, due to the temporary suspension of the judge’s ruling. Ultimately, it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the FDAs approval stands. Given the High Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, we can hope that the Court will back Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision.
Encouragingly, a significant number of pro-life politicians are standing up to express their support for the judge’s decision. Almost 70 Congressional Republicans have filed a brief doing so, while a coalition of 19 states has come out in support of the judge’s ruling.
“Medical” abortions are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of preborn children in the United States every year, not to mention the physical, psychological, and spiritual harm of countless women. Should this decision stand, it could potentially save the lives of millions of preborn children, and save as many women from a lifetime of pain and regret.
Once again, we are seeing the tireless efforts of committed pro-life heroes making a massively positive difference. The FDA thought it could get away with approving dangerous drugs based upon slip-shod, politically-motivated processes. Dedicated pro-life experts and professionals committed years of their life to making sure that that wasn’t the end of the story. They deserve our thanks and our prayers.
In the meantime, let us continue to fast and pray for the success of this court case. Piece by piece, we are dismantling the culture of death in the United States. Hopefully, dangerous “medical” abortions will be the next thing to go.
Did you find this useful?
Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing email@example.com.