Reproductive rights advocates and Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Saturday condemned a far-right federal judge's ruling that threatens access to mifepristone—one of two drugs commonly used in abortion pills—while calling on the Biden administration to do everything in its power to ensure access to the medication.
On Saturday, more than 40 House Democrats urged President Joe Biden to "use all the tools at your disposal to protect access to abortion and reproductive healthcare" a day after U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas ruled in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone in 2000 was illegal. Kacsmaryk—an appointee of former President Donald Trump—stayed his preliminary injunction for seven days to give the FDA time to appeal.
Shortly after Kacsmaryk's ruling, U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice in Washington state issued a contradictory decision that blocks the FDA from removing mifepristone from the market.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said
late Friday that the Justice Department "strongly disagrees" with Kacsmaryk's ruling and will appeal the decision.
Meanwhile, Democratic Attorneys General Association co-chairs Kathy Jennings (Delaware) and Aaron Ford (Nevada) called Kacsmaryk's decision "a disturbing and extraordinarily dangerous attack against women across the country."
"We strongly condemn this decision and the ongoing right-wing assault on reproductive rights, medical freedom, and abortion access," they continued. "Millions of patients have used mifepristone safely over the last two decades, but as we've seen across the country, ultra-conservative groups—including some Republican attorneys general—are not letting science, facts, or basic human rights stand in the way of a medieval crusade against abortion access."
Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible, said in a statement that "today's ruling from a MAGA judge—who was hand-selected to hear this case by the anti-abortion activists who brought it—is an audacious act of judicial meddling in our personal healthcare decisions. And it confirms what we already know: Republicans do not give a damn about safety."
"They do not care about women," she added. "They couldn't care less about the well-being of pregnant people. If they did, they'd be fighting for access to healthcare and supporting paid leave policies."
Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that "today's decision has no basis in law or fact. This lawsuit was manufactured as part of an orchestrated campaign to deny all women in the U.S. access to abortion, even those living in states with strong abortion rights protections."
"While the decision is without merit, its impact will be devastating, threatening access to a safe and effective medicine used by over five million patients in the past two decades," Northup added. "The ruling should be swiftly reversed on appeal."
Last November, the right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom challenged the FDA's approval of mifepristone, one of two medications commonly taken in tandem to induce abortion.
Responding to the U.S. Supreme Court's cancellation of federal abortion rights in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the FDA announced in January that pharmacies could sell mifepristone. Walgreens, the nation's second-largest pharmacy chain, subsequently said it would not sell mifepristone in states where Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action.
As the Center for Reproductive Rights notes, "Without the FDA-approved medication, both clinics and patients across the country will struggle to provide and access time-sensitive abortion care."
"Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, providers across the country have already seen a massive influx of patients and increased wait times, pushing time-sensitive care out of reach for many," the group added. "The impacts of today's decision will fall hardest on communities who already face structural barriers in accessing health care, including communities of color, people living in rural areas, and those living on a low income."
Some congressional Democrats urged Biden to simply ignore Kacsmaryk's ruling.
"I think there's no basis for this ruling in law, and I think that the Biden administration can and must ignore the judge and keep mifepristone on the market and this medication available for every woman in America," Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) toldKATU Friday.
Appearing on CNN Friday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that "we've been preparing for and anticipating there being egregious overreaches by members of the judiciary appointed by a right-wing Republican Party whose goal for a very long time is to pack the courts with partisan judges, often underqualified or completely unqualified for their role."
"I believe that the Biden administration should ignore this ruling," Ocasio-Cortez asserted. "I think that the courts... rely upon the legitimacy of their rulings. And what they are currently doing is engaging in an unprecedented and dramatic erosion of the legitimacy of the courts."