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US Court of Appeals Decides to Halt Mail Distribution of Mifepristone, Decreases Usage Period

by Faith Green

As of Wednesday night, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has reached a temporary decision regarding the legality of the abortion pill, mifepristone. 

Last week, Trump-appointed District Judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk, called to ban the drug nationwide by reversing the FDA’s approval of the abortion pill, allowing the government 7 days to block the notion. Although the US Government did decide to temporarily block parts of the ban, they chose to honor the parts of it that reimpose prior restrictions. These restrictions prevent mifepristone from being mailed directly to patients. That’s not all. This also includes shortening the window of time the drug can be used, revoking the previously approved 10-week usage period back down to its initial 7 weeks. 

This is a major setback for the fight for reproductive rights, seeing as mifepristone is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy. The ruling prevents mifepristone from being mailed out —which is how many women in the states where abortion is now severely limited were obtaining it. Impacting the ability to access the drug via mail limits safe abortion options for those who are unable to travel to a pharmacy. This was already overruled by the FDA in 2023, when the Biden Administration called to overturn a US Code that states that it’s illegal to mail “Every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.” 

Now, less than a year later, a major win for abortion accessibility is being revoked. The approval for the duration period during which mifepristone can be used is being revoked as well. The drug was initially approved for a 7 week gestation period, but was increased to 10 week gestation period due to a FDA-sanctioned update in 2016. What’s awful about this is that 1 in 3 people don’t find out that they’re pregnant until around 6 weeks, so if you happen to live in a state that imposes abortion restrictions, you might be legally compelled to continue an unwanted or non-viable pregnancy.

Many are worried about both the legality and the ethics of this decision.Vox states, “It imposes restrictions on mifepristone use that no court has the authority to impose. And it wrongly claims that the judiciary has the power to override the FDA’s scientific judgments.” To restrict access is a direct infringement on abortion rights.  Considering that the legality of mifepristone has been up in the air for months, many are worried about their ability to obtain the drug in the future. The government continues to make decisions that seem to rescind years of progress and science. Unfortunately, the temporary move to stop the ban still imposes major restrictions on people seeking abortions nationwide. And that has us all worried about the future of reproductive health rights 

Top Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

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