FFRF decries circuit court’s reprehensible mifepristone ruling


The Freedom From Religion Foundation condemns yesterday’s reprehensible U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of severe abortion medication restrictions.

Not only would this ruling limit abortion medication to just seven weeks of gestation, but it would also ban telemedicine and mail-order shipments for abortion pills. Since the U.S. Supreme Court in April decreed that mifepristone would remain available under current rules until the mifepristone litigation concludes, the ruling will have minimal impact … for now. But ultimately the case will land back before the Catholic-dominated extremist U.S. Supreme Court, which only a year ago in a 6–3 decision blithely overturned the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion care nationwide.

The Orwellian appeals court decision, by President George W. Bush appointee Jennifer W. Elrod joined by President Trump appointee Cory T. Wilson, pretends the court’s concern is safety for women. Given that more than 5 million U.S. women have used mifepristone to end pregnancies in the past 23 years, with a serious complication rate of less than 1 percent, that reasoning is laughable.

Even more laughable is the so-called “dissent.” Yes, there was a dissent, but it was by President Trump appointee Judge James C. Ho, who complained that his colleagues didn’t go far enough. Ho wrote that he would have invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone in 2000 entirely.

Laudably, the Justice Department released a statement that it “strongly disagrees” with this decision and “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.”

The lawsuit in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nationalist legal outfit. It represents anti-abortion advocates who judge-shopped U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, also a Christian nationalist extremist whose nomination FFRF actively opposed, and who issued the ruling in April to ban mifepristone altogether around the nation.

The claim that mifepristone is unsafe and should not be available via telemedicine or mail has no basis in evidence-based research. Mifepristone, part of the two-drug regimen for abortion medication, was first approved by the FDA in 2000. Abortion medication accounts for more than half of all U.S. abortions. Currently it is approved for up to 10 weeks of gestation in the United States, although the World Health Organization approves it for up to 12 weeks of gestation and it can be used for up to 12 weeks in most states. A seven-week limit would severely erode access to abortion medication.

Medication abortion is extremely safe; the death rate is 0.0005 percent. For comparison, the risk of death from penicillin is four times greater and the risk of death from Viagra is nearly 10 times higher. 

“The individual rights our secular republic has guaranteed, most notably reproductive rights, are truly endangered in today’s United States,” comments Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “The partial capture of the federal judiciary by Trump on behalf of Christian nationalists continues to wreak constitutional havoc.”

FFRF will continue to advocate for court reform and for secular Americans to flex their electoral muscles to demand that true religious liberty be preserved.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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