Mifepristone, which is used in conjunction with the drug misoprostol to terminate pregnancies, is currently the most common method of abortion in the U.S. and makes up around half of all abortions that are performed in the country.
The move came after U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk signed an injunction last week instructing the FDA to stay the approval of the drug on the grounds that it was approved improperly and too hastily.
In his decision, he said that the court did not take the act of questioning the FDA’s decisions lightly. However, he noted: “But here, FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns—in violation of its statutory duty—based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions.”
The same day, President Biden issued a statement vowing to fight the ruling, while Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department would continue to “defend the FDA’s decision” to approve the drug.
On Sunday, the FDA appealed the decision, saying that their approval was based on a comprehensive review of available evidence and maintained the drug is safe and effective. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals then blocked the order suspending the FDA’s approval of the drug but voted 2-1 to temporarily reimpose certain restrictions on the medication.
This had the effect of temporarily blocking mail delivery of the drug, reimposing the requirement for women seeking the drug to visit a doctor first. It also reduced the amount of time into a pregnancy during which women can take the pill from 10 weeks to seven weeks.
Representative Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) has said that one option that is on the table should the Biden administration dismiss the ruling suspending mifepristone’s approval is defunding the FDA.
Gonzales is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and he said that his fellow House Republicans could use “the power of the purse” to make sure the administration stays accountable.
Speaking on CNN's State of the Union, he said: "It’s very dangerous when you have the administration, the Biden administration, coming out and saying they may not uphold a ruling.”
He added: "And if the administration wants to not lead this ruling, not live up to this ruling, then we’re going to have a problem. And it may come to a point where House Republicans on the appropriation side have to defund FDA programs that don’t make sense.”
The pill can cause side effects such as cramping, vomiting and heavy bleeding; in some cases, it can cause women to lose consciousness. Around 3 percent of women who take the drug end up needing emergency room care to address complications. Moreover, up to 7 percent of women who take it will end up needing to undergo a surgical abortion to terminate their pregnancy. In addition to killing millions of unborn babies, thousands of women have been harmed by using the drug properly.
The FDA’s own statistics show that it has caused 24 maternal deaths and more than 4,000 adverse reactions ranging from hemorrhage and severe abdominal pain to life-threatening infections. Because many of these incidents are not reported, this is believed to represent just a small fraction of the true number of adverse events.
Despite these dangers, the pro-choice crowd is insisting that the move is somehow bad for women and will put their health at risk. If they really cared about women being able to make decisions about their bodies, however, they would be in favor of vetting abortion drugs more thoroughly and ensuring greedy pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to peddle toxic medications to them.
Sources for this article include: