ACLU Comment on Fifth Circuit Decision in Medication Abortion Case

August 16, 2023 5:00 pm

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NEW ORLEANS — The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, a case in which the plaintiffs are seeking to take mifepristone — a medication that is used in most abortions in the country — off the shelves nationwide as part of a campaign to ban abortion in every state. While the court today refused to allow some of the most extreme claims to move forward, if this ruling were permitted to take effect, it would have devastating effects on the availability of abortion nationwide. Today’s ruling will not have immediate impacts on access to mifepristone because the Supreme Court previously issued a stay on any ruling pending further review from the high court.

The Fifth Circuit distorts science and medicine and does so in a manner that would not only severely limit access to abortion but would undermine drug innovation and development for all kinds of essential medications. Among other things, the ruling would prohibit people from receiving mifepristone in the mail and instead require them to travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, just to pick up the medication. The decision also vacates a decision by the FDA that gave doctors express approval to lower the amount of medication prescribed by doctors by a factor of 3.

In response to the decision, Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, issued the following statement:

“At a time when access to abortion has already been devastated by the overturning of Roe, this decision would further decimate people’s ability to get an abortion in every state in the country. The court tries to turn back the clock on medical science and prevent doctors from following current medical evidence among other things, preventing patients from getting their medications in the mail, forcing them in some cases to travel hundreds of miles just to pick up a pill.

“Beyond abortion, if allowed to stand, the decision also would threaten the research and innovation of other essential medications by allowing unprecedented second guessing of the FDA’s drug approval process.

“The case now moves to the Supreme Court, which will have the power to decide whether it will allow extremists to move forward with the next step in their plan to ban abortion in all 50 states. While we hope the court will listen to the scientific experts and overrule the deeply flawed lower court rulings, it is extremely concerning that such a baseless case has made it this far given that mifepristone has been used safely and effectively by millions of people for decades.”

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