AMARILLO, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — A Trump-appointed federal judge said he plans to issue a decision “as soon as possible” after hearing oral arguments Wednesday in a major pro-life case that reportedly has some abortion facilities preparing for an imminent nationwide ban on the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone.
A significant case for the pro-life movement, a ruling banning mifepristone is nonetheless likely to be met with appeal, and abortionists are poised to switch to other options if mifepristone is pulled from the market.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk declared his intention to issue a ruling “soon” during a Wednesday hearing in Amarillo, Texas, in which he heard arguments from attorneys with the Biden administration as well as pro-life plaintiffs including the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, Reuters reported.
LifeSiteNews previously reported that the case doesn’t hinge on the ethics of the abortion drug or the nature of abortion itself, but rather the regulatory process that led to the drug’s entrance onto the market over two decades ago.
Mifepristone, which works by depriving the growing infant of needed progesterone, effectively starving him to death, is often combined with the follow-up drug misoprostol, which induces labor to deliver the deceased infant.
In November, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of four medical organizations and four doctors against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), arguing that the agency had inappropriately fast-tracked its approval of mifepristone back in 2000.
Now, the ADF and the groups it represents are asking the court for a preliminary injunction that would block prescription of the abortion drug nationwide until the court has a chance to render a definitive judgment.
“The FDA’s approval of chemical abortion drugs has always stood on shaky legal and moral ground, and after years of evading responsibility, it’s time for the government to do what it’s legally required to do: protect the health and safety of vulnerable women and girls,” ADF senior counsel Erik Baptist said in a press release shared with LifeSiteNews.
Meanwhile, the FDA has argued its approval was appropriate and expressed worry that a court decision opposing its greenlighting of mifepristone could create issues with pharmaceutical companies trusting FDA approvals in future.
As LifeSiteNews previously reported, plaintiffs in the case contend that the FDA improperly utilized “accelerated review authority” to approve the abortion drug mifepristone, even though that authority was only supposed to be used for drugs to treat “serious or life-threatening illnesses,” a category to which pregnancy does not belong.
They have also criticized the testing of the drug for allegedly falling short of legal standards and have pointed out that more recent decisions by the FDA in 2016 and 2021 eroded guardrails that the agency had relied upon for the drug’s approval in 2000.
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Though the current court case doesn’t tackle the nature of abortion itself, the decision could mean the halting distribution of the first drug in the so-called “gold standard” medication abortion regimen even as the use of drugs to murder infants in the womb accounted for 53% of all abortions in 2020.
Plaintiffs also argued during Wednesday’s hearing that the drugs pose risks to pregnant moms themselves, putting a burden on the healthcare industry and cutting against the FDA’s claims that the pills are safe.
LifeSiteNews and other pro-life groups have long warned that the abortion-inducing drugs carry risks for mothers in addition to killing growing babies.
In a Wednesday press release, Texas Right to Life cited studies indicating “that 1 in 5 women experience an adverse event following a chemical abortion,” and that women are four times more likely to suffer complications from medication abortions than surgical abortions, requiring follow-up surgeries in 3-8% of cases.
Meanwhile, legacy media outlets and abortion advocates have reacted to Wednesday’s hearing in the significant case with dismay, hinting that Kacsmaryk appeared sympathetic to the pro-life group’s argument.
NBC suggested that, during the four-hour hearing, “Kacsmaryk seemed to offer the plaintiffs more windows than the defense to clarify and elaborate on their arguments, especially those related to the FDA’s approval process and the scope of a potential injunction.”
However, it remains unclear whether Kacsmaryk will hand down a broad ruling that would effectively stop the distribution of the drugs.
According to Reuters, during the hearing, the Trump-appointee floated “a more limited ruling” that would involve “keeping the drug on the market but re-imposing some restrictions lifted by Biden’s administration, including requiring it to be dispensed in person rather than by mail.”
Despite the potential for a more limited decision, Reuters suggested that the Texas case could be the most significant in the abortion-related space since the historic June 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson, which scrapped the federal “right to abortion” and returned the matter back to the states.
The landmark decision sparked a bevy of pro-life trigger laws, enactment of pre-Roe abortion bans, and new legislative proposals across the nation ranging from 15-week bans and heartbeat laws to the complete criminalization of abortion statewide.
A decision to pull the “gold standard” abortion drug from the market could also have ripple effects.
However, CBS noted that a ruling banning mifepristone wouldn’t put an end to the use of chemical abortion drugs in the U.S.
Abortionists say that misoprostol can be used on its own to cause abortions if mifepristone is banned, a work-around that further indicates that the battle to protect the preborn is far from over.