woman's hand holding pill
Alliance Defending Freedom Secures Court Win Ending Mail-Order Abortion

August 19, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |  

The Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) secured a federal court ruling that effectively halts mail-order abortions.  

On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must reinstate its safety restrictions for mifepristone use. In effect, the ruling limits mifepristone’s use to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, as well as requires an in-person visit with a provider prior to prescription.   

This is the Texas court’s second ruling against mifepristone access. In April, the court issued an injunction against the abortion drug. The same hour of that injunction, a Washington federal court ruled that the FDA must continue providing mifepristone. Several weeks after those conflicting orders, the Supreme Court halted the Texas court’s injunction until all litigation had concluded.

ADF sued the FDA last November on behalf of four pro-life medical groups, who argued that mifepristone shouldn’t have been approved by the FDA over 20 years ago and should be removed from the market.  

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000, during the Clinton administration, using a fast-tracked approval process. The FDA justified approval by reclassifying abortion as a “serious or life-threatening illness” and mifepristone as a “meaningful therapeutic benefit.” In a 2008 report, the Governmental Accountability Office (GAO) noted the medical community’s widespread criticism of the basis for mifepristone’s approval.   

“Critics have argued that unwanted pregnancy should not be considered a serious or life-threatening illness,” stated the GAO report.   

Mifepristone’s efficacy and safety are dubious. The drug’s usage has been linked to hundreds of cases of infections and death, if not more. Government studies have estimated adverse effects of the drug occurring in as many as one in five women. The FDA also failed to convince the New Orleans court of the drug’s safety.

“[I]n loosening mifepristone’s safety restrictions, [the] FDA failed to address several important concerns about whether the drug would be safe for the women who use it,” read the majority opinion.  

Yet, state leaders have advocated for access to the abortion drug. Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office claims the drug is “incredibly safe” and that restrictions on it are “unnecessary.”  

In June, Hobbs issued an executive order usurping county attorneys’ authority over prosecuting abortion law violations. 

In March, Mayes encouraged pharmacies to give out abortion pills. In May, Mayes joined an amicus brief to advocate for the upholding of mifepristone’s FDA approval.   

Hours after the circuit court ruling, Mayes’ new Reproductive Rights Unit issued guidance on how individuals can hide their data, such as internet history and communications, when seeking abortions. The new unit is headed by deputy solicitor general Hayleigh Crawford.   

The attorney general didn’t issue a direct response to this week’s ruling, but the data privacy guidance and corresponding meeting appeared to be an indirect response of sorts.

Featured guests at the meeting included:  

  • Chris Love, board member and senior advisor for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and attorney at Kewenvoyouma Law; 
  • Sheena Chiang, co-chair of the Planned Parenthood Arizona Board of Directors, and attorney for the Maricopa County Legal Defender’s office; 
  • Jodi Liggett, founder of the progressive think tank and advocacy group Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement, former deputy chief of staff for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, former vice president of external affairs and executive director for Planned Parenthood of Arizona, former senior policy advisor for Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, former CEO of Arizona Foundation for Women, and former policy advisor for former Gov. Jane Hull;
  • Bré Thomas, CEO of Affirm Sexual and Reproductive Health For All, former Arizona Department of Health Services manager and senior policy advisor, former Arizona Department of Economic Security executive assistant to the deputy director, and former women’s health policy advisor for former Gov. Janet Napolitano;
  • Cadey Harrel, doctor and founder of Agave Community Health and Wellness;
  • Tonya Irick, director of abortion clinic Family Planning Associates Medical Group

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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