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Abortion Medication Becomes Temporarily Available Again—With Some Major Caveats

Abortion rights protesters hold signs during a demonstration.

The bad guys have lost some points on the board—a few, at least. The Justice Department successfully sought an injunction to block a ruling that would have taken mifepristone, a very safe and effective abortion pill, off the market after a judge with no medical training ruled that the FDA (a regulatory agency with a lot of people with extensive medical training in it) had no authority to bring the pill to market. The Justice Department asked an appellate court panel to block the decision and won, with some restrictions on access to mifepristone.

Again, this is a pill that has been on the market for 23 years, it is safe. The only reason why you would restrict it is that you want to make access to abortion hard. Per The New York Times:

But the panel blocked a series of steps the F.D.A. took in recent years to ease access to the drug — including allowing it to be sent through the mail and prescribed by health care providers who are not doctors.

That’s right, mifepristone access is restored but you can’t get it through the mail anymore (which was allowed in 2016) and now you have to get it prescribed by your doctor, again (another restriction that was eased in 2016). Great. Let’s make it as hard as possible to get an abortion, surely that is the point.

Don’t put too much stock in what the appellate panel said, though. It was comprised of two Trump-appointed judges, and one George W. Bush judge. All anti-choice Republican presidents! Make no mistake, It was not a coincidence in what jurisdiction this lawsuit was filed (The 5th Circuit in New Orleans, where the appellate panel is benched has “long leaned conservative.”) The anti-choice monsters are always calculated because their stance is not a popular one. They are a vocal horrible minority. As a reminder: the vast majority of Americans are pro-choice to the tune of 85% of us. They gotta make sure the judges are on their side when they file their monstrous lawsuits.

Since there is a vocal and powerful minority that hates the fact that the majority of the country wants autonomy over their bodies, this fight will have to go all the way up to the Supreme Court, which is expected to happen “in a matter of days.” I don’t relish that either, especially because this court is the same majority Conservative bunch that repealed Roe in the same place.

It’s also confusing because there are multiple jurisdictions at play here, but essentially what is going on is that the Justice Department has asked The Supreme Court to weigh in on the initial appellate court ruling of blocking the mail order component and non-doctors prescribe mifepristone, with the full knowledge of whatever happens next, either the plaintiff or the defendant will appeal and the case will ultimately go back to the Supreme Court to be heard on its own merits.

So what is the likely outcome from the Supreme Court? Your guess is as good as mine, but The New York Times outlines some scenarios:

 [They] may restore full access to the pill, endorse the restrictions outlined by the appeals court or suspend access entirely, as a federal judge in Texas did. The appeal will then proceed and probably return to the justices for a ruling on the merits, further embroiling them in a fight they said they had abandoned.

There is some hope, however. Per the above source:

The case has attracted interest beyond the groups that usually weigh in on abortion cases. Hundreds of pharmaceutical industry leaders and investors issued a scathing condemnation of the ruling invalidating mifepristone’s approval and filed a brief supporting the F.D.A. in the case.

“If courts can overturn drug approvals without regard for science or evidence, or for the complexity required to fully vet the safety and efficacy of new drugs, any medicine is at risk for the same outcome as mifepristone,” they wrote in a statement on Monday. Leaving the fate of medicines in the hands of jurists, they argued, would have a chilling effect on drug development in the United States, reducing incentives for investment and innovation.

That’s right, the deep pockets of the pharmaceutical corporations are on the right side. Cool? I guess one of the few benefits of living in an end-stage capitalist hellscape is that when you piss off the right industry, they may help you out in specific instances by expressing their anger and joining your side.

Abortion is healthcare. Access to it is a human right. I am hopeful that this lawsuit restores full access to mifepristone to everyone, and if it doesn’t, well, when do the protests start because count me in.

(featured image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Kate Hudson (no, not that one) has been writing about pop culture and politics for five years, and is a Contributing Writer at The Mary Sue. With a deep and unwavering love of Twilight and Con Air, she absolutely understands her taste in pop culture is both wonderful and terrible at the same time. She has probably seen Cliffhanger more times than you. Team Edward 4-Eva.