On April 7, a federal judge from Texas issued an extremely controversial ruling claiming that the drug mifepristone, which has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for over 20 years — since 2000 — is unsafe and that the FDA made a mistake in approving it to be medically available. Mifepristone is most commonly used as a way to induce abortions through a two-part regimen of pills, with additional uses including treating miscarriages and diseases such as Cushing’s syndrome, in which people produce excess cortisol. Mifepristone, which medical experts commonly agree is safe, is now at risk of being banned because of a judge appointed by former President Donald Trump.
After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, the right to get an abortion has been banned or severely limited in many states throughout the country. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed a law on April 14 banning abortions after six weeks, with no exceptions, and other states including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana banned abortion procedures at every stage of pregnancy. In Texas, where the federal judge issued this new ruling, abortion is banned in nearly all cases, including in circumstances of rape or incest.
Adding to America’s dismal health care system, there is a lack of availability to receive a safe abortion in so many states. With the new ruling, there is now the possibility that even in states where abortion is illegal, the most common method of receiving one may be banned. Abortion pills are known to be safe — according to over 30 years worth of studies analyzed by the New York Times, more than 99 percent of abortions completed using pills resulted in no severe side effects or hospitalizations. Dr. Caleb Alexander of Johns Hopkins University noted that, “There may be a political fight here, but there’s not a lot of scientific ambiguity about the safety and effectiveness of this product.”
The decision to receive an abortion via a widely safe pill should not be the decision of one judge but rather the choice of women who actually receive abortions. Banning the abortion pill won’t decrease the number of women who have abortions, but it will decrease the opportunity for women to use a safe and effective pill. In addition, using a single-drug method to induce an abortion is somewhat less effective and safe than the currently used method, and banning mifepristone will not allow women to receive abortions via mifepristone even in states where abortion is legal.
In response to the Texas federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling, a federal judge from Washington State issued an opposing ruling — joined by 17 other states — stating that Kacsmaryk’s ruling is incorrect and is hindering the FDA from “altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of Mifepristone.” Kacsmaryk’s ruling was initially supposed to take effect seven days after it was issued, but the Supreme Court, which is next to hear this case, has held off of banning it until Friday, April 21 right before midnight.
While it is now under the purview of the Supreme Court to see whether or not mifepristone’s FDA approval will be removed and whether or not it will be banned, reducing access not only to abortions but to the safest, most effective way of receiving one is detrimental to women’s rights and health care. Removing the ability to receive the abortion pill via mail and in pharmacies jeopardizes women’s ability to make safe decisions for themselves in the United States.
Samantha Rigante is a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law.