New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a multistate coalition to challenge the decision issued by a district court judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that could restrict medication abortion access nationwide.
The amicus brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, urges the court to stay pending appeal of the district court’s ruling, which if allowed to take effect would halt the more than two-decade-old approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the medication abortion drug, mifepristone. Attorney General James and the coalition of 24 attorneys general warn that revoking federal approval for mifepristone will drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management for millions of people across the country, endangering lives and trampling states’ authority to protect and promote access to abortion.
“The decision to halt the FDA’s longstanding approval of mifepristone was clearly misguided and not based on science or medical research,” said Attorney General James. “Restricting access to a medication that has been proven safe over decades of research harms public health and rights of millions of Americans. So long as I am New York’s Attorney General, every effort to weaken and deny abortion access will be met with the full force of my office.”
This ruling comes in a challenge brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to revoke the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. On April 7, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ordered the FDA to stay its approval of mifepristone, which happened in 2000. The court’s order does not take effect immediately, as the district court put its ruling on hold for seven days to give the federal government and the drug manufacturer an opportunity to appeal. Attorney General James and the coalition are urging the appellate court to continue to stay the lower court’s unprecedented and legally erroneous decision pending the appeal, given the decades of clinical research and studies that have confirmed mifepristone’s safety and the critical role medication abortion plays in reproductive health care, particularly in low-income, underserved, and rural communities.
The coalition notes that if the lower court decision takes effect, it could drastically curtail abortion access for millions of Americans. Mifepristone has been particularly critical in providing access to safe abortion care in low-income, underserved, and rural communities. According to current estimates, medication abortion accounts for over half, approximately 54 percent, of all abortions performed in the United States. Obstructing access to mifepristone would significantly increase demand for procedural abortions, resulting in later and more risky procedures, and more complicated and costly logistics for many patients, especially those where procedural abortion is unavailable. Moreover, lack of access to safe abortion care leads to worsened health outcomes and higher mortality, especially for Black women.
Attorney General James has been a national leader in protecting access to reproductive healthcare, including medication abortion. In March, Attorney General James, together with Governor Hochul, sent a letter to the CEOs of Walgreens (owner of Duane Reade), Rite Aid, and CVS to demand answers about the companies’ plans to make the abortion medication mifepristone available in New York state. In February, Attorney General James led a multistate coalition to defend and protect access to medication abortion in the initial court challenge that sought to revoke FDA’s approval of mifepristone. Following the Supreme Court’s decision to end Roe v. Wade, Attorney General James launched a pro bono legal hotline to provide legal support to patients and healthcare providers nationwide. Attorney General James has helped lead a coalition of attorneys general to defend abortion access in Idaho, Texas, Arizona, Indiana, and Mississippi.
Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Solicitor General Grace X. Zhou, Deputy Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions, and Special Counsel for Reproductive Justice Galen Leigh Sherwin of the Executive Division, which is overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.