The Biden administration is continuing to pursue protections for abortion and reproductive rights in general as the nation deals with the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last year, which has left states nationwide to impose their own, individual restrictions on — or allowances for — accessing abortion.
After a recent ruling from a conservative federal judge that if imposed would undo the allowance for mifepristone, which is a prescription drug used in abortion via medication, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement outlining the Justice Department’s plans for an appeal. The original ruling, from Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, was issued with a delay before it would take effect, helping to provide for appeals — and there was also an actually competing ruling issued by another federal judge on the same day Kacsmaryk’s decision emerged. Many abortions in the United States are conducted via medication, which remains accessible — for now.
“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA and will be appealing the court’s decision and seeking a stay pending appeal,” Garland said last Friday.
“Today’s decision overturns the FDA’s expert judgment, rendered over two decades ago, that mifepristone is safe and effective. The Department will continue to defend the FDA’s decision. Separately, the Justice Department is reviewing the decision of the District Court for the Eastern District of Washington in Washington et al. v. FDA. The Department is committed to protecting Americans’ access to legal reproductive care.”
Without Roe v. Wade in place, the options available to the federal Justice Department are obviously significantly more limited, but there are still openings for federal action like ensuring abortions are available in situations involving medical emergencies, which are generally exempted from the abortion bans some individual states have put in place, although difficulties remain. Even with such an exception, there are still potential dangers should a pregnant person suffer while the medical staff caring for them struggle with whether an abortion would be allowed or would result in potentially massive criminal consequences, and there has already been reporting about exactly that scenario unfolding. A lawsuit was filed in Texas involving individuals who’d experienced pregnancy complications but struggled to obtain abortions. In the case, those challenging the state were seeking judicial clarification on the exceptions available to protect people’s lives.