Kristine Pascaul | The Poly Post

Abortion pill threatened by Trump-appointed judge

By Kristine Pascaul, April 11, 2023

The legality of a key abortion pill, mifepristone, lies in the hands of a conservative, Trump-appointed judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, which may complicate the access to abortion nationwide.  

The lawsuit was filed back in November 2022 and was drawn up by several anti-abortion groups and doctors who claim this pill, mifepristone, is unsafe for the purpose of an abortion. These groups have complained they believe that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “chose politics over science” when the drug was initially approved 20 years ago. 

Ethnic Women’s Studies Assistant Professor, Ayana Jamieson explained the various types of dangers and difficulties women may encounter during pregnancy. She also noted the inequalities women of color and of working-class face. 

“The chances of death or some other kind of harm go up exponentially during pregnancy and women of color and black women regardless of income, education and health insurance, have higher infant mortality and maternal mortality rates,” said Jamieson.

The drug is followed by a second pill that terminates pregnancies during the 10th week. Anti-abortion groups also argue that the FDA “exceeded its regulatory authority” in 2000, claiming the drug is unsafe.

Plaintiffs in this case are also asking Kacsmaryk to withdraw the drug, misoprostol for abortion use. However, they are primarily focusing on mifepristone in this case. The FDA noted they reviewed scientific evidence to back up mifepristone, and the benefits far outweigh any potential risks.

Plaintiffs want Kacsmaryk to issue a preliminary injunction across all states, which would block mifepristone in drug markets. This would be trouble not just for states that penalize abortion, but also for states that are trying to protect abortion access.

If Kacsmaryk rules the FDA’s approval of mifepristone as unlawful, women in the U.S. will likely face troubles when searching for access to abortion, especially since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The process for ruling to remove the drug from the market could take months to years and even if he did immediately attempt to revoke the drug, the FDA is the final decision maker. The judge is expected to make a ruling soon.

Professor Brian Foster of the Ethnic Women’s Studies Department at Cal Poly Pomona, emphasized the threat this lawsuit may have on women’s rights.  

“This will push women’s rights back to almost the 19th century,” said Foster. “This is taking us back to theocracy.”

If mifepristone is pulled out of the markets, clinics that prescribe the drug will switch to only providing misoprostol which is the second drug used in the abortion process. However, only taking misoprostol has a slightly lower rate of effectiveness in terminating pregnancies.

If mifepristone is removed from markets, women would still able to go through with an abortion, but their options would be limited. Although there are many abortion providers nationwide, the problem is most of them only carry medication rather than surgery. Around 50% of Planned Parenthood of LA’s patients choose the medication form of abortion. 

“It’s like a ripple effect. Access to maintenance medications really is just more about power and control rather than safety and life,” said Jamieson. 

The Health Center at CPP offers free abortion medication to students up to 10 weeks of pregnancy but appointment is required. 

“We think of (abortion) as a technology that has freed women and allowed them to take better access to the public sphere and public life and everything else,” said Foster. “Denying them access to it pushes them out of the public sphere and pushes them back into the religious theocracy which the Constitution says we’re not supposed to have.” 

Feature image by Kristine Pascaul

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