Vice President Harris on Thursday blasted an appeals court decision that upheld part of a ruling to invalidate the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decades-old approval of the abortion medication mifepristone.
Harris, who has been the White House’s leading voice on the fight for abortion access, warned that the lawsuit to roll back access to mifepristone “is the next step to a nationwide abortion ban.”
“The decision severely limits access to mifepristone, standing between doctors and their patients,” Harris said in a statement. “President Biden and our Administration remain firmly committed to protecting access to medication abortion, as the President and I have made clear since the day of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday said the Department of Justice (DOJ) will ask the Supreme Court to pause the ruling.
U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk last week ruled in favor of anti-abortion groups, halting the FDA’s approval of the drug.
Late Wednesday night, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that mifepristone may remain on the market as the federal government’s appeal proceeds, but it simultaneously allowed portions of a Texas judge’s ruling from last week to stand that would roll back a series of actions the FDA has taken since 2016 that eased access to the pill.
Those changes included allowing the mifepristone to be sent through the mail, lifting a requirement for three in-person visits, approving a generic and approving the drug’s use up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, rather than seven weeks.
Those changes will go into effect Saturday, barring an intervention from the Supreme Court.
“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to deny in part our request for a stay pending appeal,” Garland said in a statement. “We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.”
Harris has been the Biden administration’s leading voice on the issue of abortion in the year since the Supreme Court overturned the decades-long precedent of Roe v. Wade. The vice president has met with hundreds of advocates and health care providers in that time as the White House has sought to protect patient privacy and access to reproductive health.