House Democrats call for immediate hearing on Texas abortion pill ruling


Abortion rights advocates gather in front of the J Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas, on March 15, 2023.

Moises Avila | AFP | Getty Images

Democrats on the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday requested an immediate hearing on a federal judge’s order suspending the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion pill mifepristone

All 23 Democrats on the committee wrote in a letter to Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., arguing the ruling undermines the FDA’s authority over the drug-approval process.

The lawmakers said the committee and the public must hear from experts about the impact of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision last week. They cite more than a dozen food and drug law scholars who say banning mifepristone would create “harmful reverberations” that would affect abortion patients, health-care providers and the biopharmaceutical industry. 

“The Committee, and the American people, must understand the impact of this decision and what is at stake for not only abortion care, but also for access to critical safe and effective medications more broadly,” they wrote in the letter. 

Mifepristone, used in combination with another drug called misoprostol, is the most common method to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S., accounting for about half of all abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The letter comes a day after Republican and Democratic lawmakers clashed over Kacsmaryk’s order, which he delivered last Friday in U.S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas. 

More than 200 Democratic lawmakers filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging a federal appeals court to grant emergency relief from the ruling. Fifty senators and 190 House members wrote in the brief that staying the order is “necessary to mitigate the imminent harm facing members of the public.” 

The lawmakers added in the brief that many people rely on the availability of mifepristone for reproductive care and “many more” rely on the FDA’s authority over drug approvals to access other life-saving drugs. 

Hours later, 69 Republicans filed a separate amicus brief urging the appeals court to uphold Kacsmaryk’s decision. 

In their brief, the GOP lawmakers said the agency’s approval of medication abortions was “unlawful.” They alleged that the FDA failed to follow Congress’ “statutorily prescribed drug approval process” by approving mifepristone in 2000. 

“The FDA’s lawless actions ultimately endanger women and girls seeking chemical abortions,” the lawmakers wrote. The brief was led by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and includes 10 other senators and 58 House Republicans. 

Those briefs came a day after the Justice Department asked the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the abortion pill mifepristone on the U.S. market as litigation plays out and to block the ruling by noon Thursday. 

Kacsmaryk in his ruling said the FDA improperly rushed its approval process for mifepristone when it signed off on the drug.

The judge delayed his ruling from taking effect for a week to give the Biden administration time to appeal it. It is set to go into effect at 12 a.m. Saturday CT.

Kacsmaryk’s decision conflicts with a ruling by a second federal judge. Minutes after the Texas decision, a judge in Washington state issued a preliminary injunction that could protect access to mifepristone in the 17 states and Washington, D.C., that brought a lawsuit arguing that too many regulations exist on the drug.

The two orders could potentially escalate the matter to the Supreme Court.

This article was originally published on CNBC