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Access to the abortion pill | A long-awaited decision in Texas



An impending decision could disrupt access to abortion pills across the United States. The matter is now in the hands of a conservative Texas judge, who anti-abortion activists are banking on to halt the approval of mifepristone.

“The plaintiffs want the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] withdraws its approval of mifepristone, explains Seth Chandler, professor of law at the University of Houston, reached by telephone by The Press. If it withdraws its approval, it becomes quite risky for doctors to prescribe it all over the United States. It’s one of the quirks of the current American justice system – and both liberals and conservatives have been raising a lot of questions about it recently. Right now, it’s possible for a single federal judge to make a decision that will essentially have a nationwide effect. »

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk must rule overnight on a request for an injunction filed last November. The lawyers of the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing Christian medical associations, request the suspension or the cancellation of the authorization granted by the FDA in 2000 for the marketing of mifepristone.


Mifepristone is used in the medical termination of pregnancy.

This pill is used in medical termination of pregnancy, along with misoprostol – which can also be taken alone. This second drug, although named in a complaint filed by the same group, is not part of the injunction request that Judge Kacsmaryk must decide these days.

The plaintiffs notably argue that the US federal agency has “failed in its duty to the girls and women of the United States” by approving “dangerous drugs” and accuse it of not having adequately studied the risks of the drug.

Mifepristone is used in several countries, including Canada, for the voluntary termination of pregnancy. It is part of the method recommended by the World Health Organization, along with misoprostol, for medical abortion.

The case before the Texas court has sparked reactions across the United States, including the White House, where President Joe Biden’s spokesperson expressed concern about a potential “unprecedented and devastating” decision. . “We are working closely with the Justice Department and the Health Department to be prepared,” Karine Jean-Pierre said last week.

A judge known for his conservatism

Judge Kacsmaryk grew up in a devout Christian family. Her sister, pregnant at 17, chose to continue her pregnancy and give her newborn baby up for adoption. Mr. Kacsmaryk hugged the baby himself before he left for his new family, an experience that strengthened his stance against abortion, according to testimony given to the washington post by his younger brother.

He is described as a very religious father and got involved in the organization that supported his sister during her pregnancy. The 40-year-old was appointed judge in 2019 by Donald Trump.

“There is no doubt that the plaintiffs chose this district to file their petition,” notes Mr. Chandler. There is no particular relationship between the law regarding drugs and a rather remote region of North Texas. They chose this district because they felt there was a very good chance that the case would be heard by this judge who, before becoming a judge, had a career where he represented cases that aligned with those of the plaintiffs. in that case. »

Which does not mean, he insists, that he will necessarily decide in favor of the plaintiffs.

The judge was sworn and sworn to apply the law and the Constitution and I certainly hope he will. But the reality is that a judge’s background can make a difference in some cases, and I imagine that’s what plaintiffs are hoping for here.

Seth Chandler, University of Houston law professor

Multiplication of disputes

Whatever Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision is, it will likely lead to further legal action, either on appeal or in other forums.

Nor is it the only ongoing cause.

Since the revocation last year of the judgment Roe v. wadewhich guaranteed the right to abortion in the United States, bills and legal actions are multiplying, both to restrict and to protect access to abortion, according to ideological alignments.

Five women, for example, announced this week a lawsuit against the State of Texas for its restrictions on the voluntary termination of pregnancy, arguing that their health had been endangered while their fetuses had no chance of survival.

Outside the courthouses, the medical and pharmaceutical field is also on the alert. Walgreens pharmacies announced last week that they will no longer dispense mifepristone in states where there are disputes over its use.

“It’s a war on many fronts,” says Chandler.

With the washington post and Agence France-Presse

Learn more

  • 36%
    Proportion of Americans who think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases

    Source: Pew Research Center, June 2022

  • 620 327
    Number of abortions performed in 2020 in the United States

    Source: Centers for disease control and prevention

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