MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has issued a national injunction suspending use of the drug mifepristone for chemical abortions. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Texas handed down the ruling in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a case brought by health care professionals arguing that the FDA illegally approved and then expanded access to the drug at the expense of women’s safety. The decision is stayed for a week to allow time for an appeal.
“The ruling in Texas is great news for women and babies,” said MCCL Co-Executive Director Cathy Blaeser. “At least 28 U.S. women have died from these chemical abortions, while thousands have been wounded. And the risks to women’s health are only exacerbated when the drug is sent to women through the mail without a doctor’s visit—as the Biden administration now allows. Judge Kacsmaryk is right to recognize the major flaws in mifepristone’s approval process and to take this dangerous drug off the market before it harms more women and girls.”
In a competing ruling issued at about the same time, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice of Washington blocked the FDA from restricting access to mifepristone in the states that brought the lawsuit, which include Minnesota. The Texas and Washington decisions could be resolved in higher courts and ultimately by the Supreme Court.
Chemical abortions account for more than half of all abortions, and accounted for 61 percent of abortions in Minnesota in 2021, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The Biden administration’s FDA recently repealed some safety rules surrounding the drug, allowing it to be shipped to women through the mail—with no in-person medical evaluation beforehand—and to be sold at pharmacies. Medical visits are necessary to verify gestational age (the risk of complications increases later in pregnancy) and to screen for ectopic pregnancy (which may be otherwise missed because its symptoms are similar to the side effects of a chemical abortion).
“Mifepristone, when used for abortion, is very different from other drugs the FDA has approved. It doesn’t treat any illness or improve anyone’s health,” noted Blaeser. “Instead, it starves and suffocates a young human being to death. It is the opposite of medicine, and it poses real risks to the mother, too. The FDA should work to safeguard the lives and health of all of us.”
Through June 2022, the FDA reports 28 deaths of women and more than 4,000 other complications from mifepristone, including more than a thousand hospitalizations. Given weak reporting requirements, many complications likely go unreported. A large Finnish study found that chemical abortions produced “adverse events” in 20 percent of cases—about four times the rate of immediate complications as surgical abortions. Research in Britain determined that about 6 percent of women undergoing chemical abortions were treated at hospitals for complications due to “retained products of conception.” Moreover, in a 2021 study of mail-order abortions, 6 percent of patients visited an emergency room or urgent care center because of the abortion.