What You Need to Know About the Case That Can Determine the Future of Medication Abortion

March 14, 2023Lillie Heyman and Emily Bourgeois

Any day now, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk will issue a ruling in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine et al v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration et al, a case that asks the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas to order the Food and Drug Administration to rescind its 20-year-old approval of mifepristone (one of two medications commonly used in medication abortion)--a major decision that could pull the drug off the market nationwide. This case was seemingly deliberately filed in the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas, a division with just one judge, and is a tactic of anti-abortion activists and politicians to dismantle sexual and reproductive healthcare across the country.

The consequences of this case could be devastating to abortion access and prevent many patients from receiving life-saving care, exacerbating the abortion access crisis that is sweeping the country now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. By potentially taking the drug off the market entirely, the ruling could hinder abortion access across the country, including states where abortion is protected. As we anxiously wait for the decision, here are some things you should know:

  • Mifepristone ("mife", pronounced mihf-ey) is one of two medications used in medication abortion in the United States, the other being Misoprostol ("miso"). Medication abortion is currently approved for us up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, and comprises over half of abortions in the U.S.

  • Mife is also used in miscarriage treatment, to prevent further complications from occurring after the loss of a pregnancy.

  • Mifepristone is SAFE and EFFECTIVE, including remotely and at a health center. In fact, medication abortion has a safety record of over 99%. In the 20 years since approved by the FDA, mife has been used by more than five million people in the U.S. to safely end their pregnancies.

  • Medication abortion is key to expanding access to reproductive healthcare (especially as it is already severely restricted), ensuring patients can make their own private decisions about their lives and futures, and reducing abortion stigma.

  • Medication abortion can be done outside of a clinical setting ("self-managed") and is an important alternative for people who may not want or be able to go to a provider. In states with medically harmful restrictions to abortion and barriers to clinic-based care in their community self-managing abortion is the best and, in some cases, the only option. Learn more about self-managed abortion at Abortion On Our Own Terms.

  • Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk's decision (yes, the decision of one appointed judge) could pull mife off the market and, in effect, ban it nationwide, further limiting access to abortion and miscarriage care. It can also threaten the FDA's authority over the approval process for other medications and patients' access to those medications.

We are committed to ensuring that people have access to the full spectrum of abortion care options, and that everyone can make decisions about their own reproductive health and futures, including choosing the method of abortion that works best for them.

So, what can you do?

  1. Act nationally by urging your members of Congress to support the Women's Health Protection Act, create a federal safeguard against state bans and restrictions that obstruct or delay access to care, and the EACH Act to remove the federal insurance coverage ban on abortion and eliminate a financial barrier to care.

  1. Act locally if you live in Texas by getting involved in RAC-TX! Our 2023 legislative campaign, L'Dor V'Dor: The RAC-TX Campaign Against Maternal Mortality focuses on saving lives by ensuring that all people who give birth on state health insurance continue to receive coverage for a full year after birth. Check out our website for more information. To get involved, email Emily Bourgeois, RAC-TX Organizer.

  1. Educate yourself and your friends on abortion pills. Let's make sure our communities know that medication abortion works, how important it is for reproductive freedom, and the resources that are available for support, such as M+A hotline and Reprocare. Join an upcoming action call or teach-in with Planned Parenthood Federation of America's National Volunteer Program.

  1. Support local abortion funds, who are working every day to ensure the people most affected by restrictions and obstacles can still access the abortions they want and need. 

Jewish thought is clear when it comes to providing this kind of necessary medical care. The rabbis tell us that a physician's job is to heal, and if they withhold medical care, it is as if they have shed blood. "The Torah has granted the physician permission to heal, and it is a religious duty which comes under the rule of saving an endangered life. If he withholds treatment, he is regarded as one who sheds blood" (Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 336:1). As Jews, we know that the preservation of life (pikuach nefesh) is our most sacred duty, and it trumps most other decrees of religious law. Access to safe and effective medication abortion is an act of pikuach nefesh.

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