(CTN News) – On Wednesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear the Biden administration’s appeal to overturn a Texas judge’s decision that would legalize the abortion drug mifepristone.
However, the 5th Circuit rules the case will likely go on for months or years. What you need to know about the case:
What Is Medication Abortion?
Medication abortions use mifepristone and misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks. More than half of U.S. abortions happen there.
Two companies sell mifepristone in the US: Danco Laboratories, which sells Mifeprex, and GenBioPro Inc.
What Is The Legal Dispute About?
Amarillo, Texas-based Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine sued the US Food and Drug Administration last year over abortion.
Mifepristone was approved for abortion in 2000 using an illegal process and without adequate consideration of the drug’s safety, they claim, asking US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to revoke it.
The FDA and mainstream U.S. medical associations strongly dispute the claims. In the case, Danco defended its drug.
How Did The Case Get To The 5th Circuit?
Kacsmaryk issued a preliminary injunction on April 7 suspending mifepristone’s approval while the lawsuit goes forward. Kacsmaryk found that the anti-abortion plaintiffs were likely to win on the merits even though the injunction wasn’t final.
Danco and the Biden administration appealed the injunction to the 5th Circuit. The Supreme Court issued an emergency order putting Kacsmaryk’s ruling on hold during the appeal, keeping mifepristone on the market for now, but didn’t address the case’s merits.
What Could The 5th Circuit Do?
After hearing arguments, the panel could either uphold Kacsmaryk’s injunction, which would suspend the approval of mifepristone while the case goes forward, or overrule it, which would keep it on the market.
Kacsmaryk’s order may also be partially upheld, allowing mifepristone to stay on the market but with significant restrictions. Earlier in the case, another 5th Circuit panel did just that, but the Supreme Court quickly overruled it.
Lastly, the panel could find the plaintiffs didn’t have standing to sue, as the government argues, which would effectively end the case unless overturned.
Whatever the court does, the losing party can appeal to the full 5th Circuit and the US Supreme Court. Mifepristone will stay available without new restrictions until all those appeals are over.
The three judges on Thursday’s panel are all conservatives who oppose abortion.
What About The Ruling From Washington State?
After Kacsmaryk’s order, US District Judge Thomas Rice in Spokane, Washington, issued a preliminary injunction barring the FDA from putting new restrictions on mifepristone.
17 Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia argued the government should loosen special safety restrictions around the pill, but the ruling only applies to them.
The injunction remains in effect. Any future ruling restricting mifepristone would probably need another appeal since it directly conflicts with any future ruling.
Are There Any Other Lawsuits Over Mifepristone’s Approval?
Yes, of course. Like the Democratic states’ lawsuit, abortion providers in Virginia, Kansas, and Montana sued the FDA last week.
The company sued the FDA last month, asking the court to stop the agency from pulling the drug off the market without going through a formal process.
The lawsuit argues that the FDA can’t just suspend approval without a process “regardless of external interference.” If successful, it would create another potential conflict with any future order limiting mifepristone.
GenBioPro is also suing West Virginia over its abortion ban, and a North Carolina doctor is fighting mifepristone restrictions there. Both lawsuits claim that mifepristone’s approval by the FDA conflicts with state laws.
When Will The Texas Case Be Finally Decided?
As soon as all the appeals over the preliminary injunction are over, both sides will get a chance to present evidence before Kacsmaryk. Mifepristone’s safety record and the FDA’s approval process could be evidence.
Kacsmaryk could then decide the case without a trial, called summary judgment, or include witness testimony in the trial.
Kacsmaryk could take months or years to make a decision. When that happens, the losing side can appeal to the 5th Circuit and the Supreme Court.
Note: Stay informed on the latest developments surrounding the contentious topic of abortion by accessing reliable news sources and staying up to date with the ongoing debates, legal battles, and societal discussions.