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Abortion pill access in the United States is in jeopardy

A Trump-appointed federal court in Texas has put a halt to the long-standing approval of mifepristone, a frequently used abortion medication.

Nevertheless, an hour later, an Obama-appointed judge in Washington state issued a counter injunction, directing that no changes be made to its availability.

The pill has been legal for more than 20 years and is used in the majority of abortions.

Due of the conflicting court orders, the case is likely to reach the US Supreme Court.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Amarillo, Texas, blocked the FDA’s clearance of mifepristone in a 67-page decision. The verdict will not take effect for seven days to provide the administration time to file an appeal.

The US Department of Justice indicated on Friday night that it would appeal the Texas ruling.

The decision of Judge Kacsmaryk may limit access to the medicine for millions of women in the United States. According to legal experts, the verdict threatens to upend the fundamental structure of America’s drug regulating system.

That comes after the Supreme Court erased constitutional safeguards for abortion last year, sparking a surge of state-by-state restrictions.

Latest developments and reactions

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a Texas-based anti-abortion group, claimed that the drug’s safety was never fully examined.

In his decision, Judge Kacsmaryk stated that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval breached federal laws that allow for rapid approval of certain drugs.

The judge also stated that the FDA neglected to evaluate the “psychological repercussions” of mifepristone.

He ruled that the pill had not been evaluated for “under-18 girls going through reproductive development.”

He wrote that women who have chemical abortion frequently face “severe psychological anguish and post-traumatic stress.”

The FDA’s “failure [to account for this] should not be overlooked or downplayed,” his legal judgment added.

Before it was approved in 2000, the FDA spent four years reviewing mifepristone.

Allison Whelan, an assistant professor of law at Georgia State University, called the verdict “inflammatory” because it refers to “unborn persons” rather than foetuses throughout.

“The harsh anti-abortion language used throughout the judgement makes the politics and ideology underlying Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision even evident,” she told the BBC.

“He cherry-picks the papers he references to support his conclusion that abortions are risky or hurt individuals who have them, without referencing the many studies that disprove those results.”

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Conversely, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy group, hailed the Texas verdict as a “major victory” for women and doctors.

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini called it a “great step forward for women and girls.”

Nevertheless, an hour after the Texas verdict, another federal judge, this time in Washington state, issued a rival 31-page injunction on a separate case, ordering the FDA to keep the medicine on the market in the Democratic-led states that initiated the claim.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson termed the counter-ruling a “major triumph… safeguarding access for the 18 plaintiff states.”

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren attacked the Texas ruling, tweeting, “We can’t let one right-wing radical overturn women, their doctors, and the scientists.”

Mifepristone, one of two drugs used to induce abortions, successfully terminates the pregnancy, while misoprostol, the other, empties the uterus.

It was first licensed for the termination of pregnancy up to seven weeks gestation.

Its permitted use was extended to 10 weeks of pregnancy in 2016.

Mifepristone is also used to treat miscarriages and Cushing syndrome, a hormone-related illness.

Mifepristone and misoprostol are both considered safe by the FDA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and other mainstream medical organizations.

Last week, the Democratic governor of Washington state said that a three-year supply of mifepristone had been stockpiled by state officials in case it became unavailable nationwide.

Days later, the Republican governor of neighboring Idaho enacted legislation making “abortion trafficking” illegal. Adults who assist youngsters in leaving the state to have an abortion without parental authorization are breaking the law.

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