On Friday, a federal judge in Texas issued an order aimed at halting the federal approval of mifepristone, a commonly used abortion pill that has been available in the U.S. for nearly 25 years.
It is uncertain what the immediate implications of the order are, as the judge allowed the federal government a week-long window to appeal, and a Washington State judge issued a conflicting order at almost the same time.
The situation raises the possibility that mifepristone may be removed from the market. Mifepristone is one of the two drugs used in the typical two-part sequence for medication-induced abortions, which accounts for approximately half of all abortions in the U.S.
The case has put Texas back at the center of America’s abortion debate, and this time, the Texas order could have repercussions for abortion access as far away as New York, which has historically had some of the strongest reproductive protections in the country.
Last year, New York City took steps to ensure free medication abortion access for all who require it. Here is what New Yorkers should know regarding the mifepristone case.
The FDA approved mifepristone, an abortion pill, in 2000. It is typically used in combination with misoprostol, a second drug, to terminate a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks.
Only certified healthcare providers are allowed to prescribe mifepristone under FDA regulations, and it has been used by over 5 million individuals in the United States since its approval.
Opponents in the Texas case argue that the drug’s safety was never fully scrutinized, while medical organizations argue that the pill has a solid safety record.
In New York, the City Council passed a law last year mandating that city-operated health clinics provide free sequences of mifepristone and misoprostol.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a conservative appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued a ruling in Amarillo, Texas that has the potential to remove the abortion pill from the market nationwide.
This move is a significant challenge to the authority of the FDA, and is expected to face a quick response from the federal government.
“This case is outlandish and unprecedented,” Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said before Kacsmaryk’s order. “It’s simply about extending the long arm of those who would ban abortion into places like New York.”
That’s correct. While misoprostol could still be used, it is less effective when used alone without mifepristone. In other countries where mifepristone is not available, misoprostol is used as a standalone medication.