US appeals court orders abortion pill restrictions

A US appeals court ruled on Wednesday in favor of reinstating restrictions on access to the abortion pill, a decision lambasted by the Biden administration, which is challenging it in the Supreme Court. This judgment, if confirmed by the highest court in the country, would result in a return to a limit of seven weeks of pregnancy instead of ten, a ban on the sending of the abortion pill by post, and the reinstatement of the obligation of prescription exclusively by a doctor.

The decision follows a hearing held in May before the Court of Appeals located in New Orleans (southeast) on access to mifepristone (RU 486) which, combined with another stamp, was used by 5.6 million women since its approval by the American Medicines Agency (FDA) in 2000. It concerns the suspension in April, by a federal trial court, of the marketing authorization for mifepristone , evoking – despite the scientific consensus – risks to women’s health.

‘Considerable setback’ if decision upheld

The administration of Democratic President Joe Biden had appealed urgently and the Supreme Court had restored the approval of this pill, while the procedure continued. The Court of Appeal rules in favor of maintaining the authorization of the pill in 2000 and of the generic in 2019 but grants part of the requests of the plaintiffs, associations of doctors or practitioners hostile to abortion, in confirming the suspension of access relaxations decided by the FDA since 2016.

“Mifeprex will remain available under the restrictions in force before 2016”, as will generic mifepristone, say the judges, while stressing that their decision will have no practical consequences until the Supreme Court has ruled in a one way or the other.

But if this decision were confirmed, “it would mark a considerable setback for women in each (American) state in their ability to receive the care they need” and would undermine the “independence” of the FDA, reacted in evening White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre. The US Department of Justice will challenge the appeals tribunal’s decision in the Supreme Court, the official confirmed, denouncing “unprecedented attacks on women’s health”.

“Panic” and “confusion”

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority following appointments made under President Donald Trump, overturned its Roe v. Wade which guaranteed since 1973 the constitutional right of American women to have an abortion, and gave back to each State its freedom to legislate in the matter.

Since then, the country has been divided between the twenty states that have banned or strictly restricted access to abortion, mainly located in the south and center of the country, and those on the coasts that have adopted new guarantees.

“This decision, if it goes into effect, could jeopardize the entire FDA drug approval system and cause panic and confusion among patients,” the NGO Center for Reproductive Rights said in a statement. Center for Reproductive Rights), noting the existence of a “scientific consensus on the safety and efficacy” of mifepristone.

The anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony on the contrary welcomed this judgment of the Court of Appeal. “The FDA ignored science and its own rules by blindly validating the Democrats’ reckless mail-order abortion plan,” she said in a statement.

In its reasons, the appeals court describes as “probably arbitrary” the FDA’s decision to approve a series of reductions in access to mifepristone without sufficiently studying, according to it, the “cumulative effects” on the health.

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