DOJ Moves to Freeze Abortion Pill Ban

Reproductive Rights

A ruling from Texas that would ban mifepristone nationwide is already taking on legal challenges

The Justice Department submitted a request to the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday asking to halt a Texas ruling that would ban access to the abortion medication mifepristone. 

The request comes after Texas Judge District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk on Friday issued an injunction suspending the nationwide distribution of mifepristone, one of two pills used to perform medicated abortions. The decision would effectively render the most common method of abortion inaccessible to women throughout the country, even in states where abortion remains legal. 

Immediately after news of the ruling became public, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement condemning the decision and indicated that the DOJ would be “appealing the court’s decision and seeking a stay pending appeal.”

”Today’s decision overturns the FDA’s expert judgment, rendered over two decades ago, that mifepristone is safe and effective. The Department will continue to defend the FDA’s decision,” Garland said. 

Lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates have backed calls to challenge the ruling, in some cases demanding the Biden administration simply refuse to enforce the decision should it be upheld. 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement Friday that “there is no way this decision has a basis in law. It is instead rooted in conservatives’ dangerous and undemocratic takeover of our country’s institutions. No matter what happens in the seven days, I believe the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to ignore this ruling.” 


The American Medical Association condemned the decision as flying in the face of proven science and medical research. “This decision introduces the extraordinary, unprecedented danger of courts upending longstanding drug regulatory decisions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” the group wrote. 

The DOJ’s request is not the only legal challenge to Kacsmaryk’s decision. In a separate ruling issued hours after the decision, Washington District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice ordered the FDA to maintain the “status quo” availability of the medication. The ruling prevents the FDA from acting on Kacsmaryk’s order to pull the medication from public availability until the Supreme Court settles the dispute between the conflicting rulings. The court is currently controlled by conservatives in a 5-4 majority.