Conservative group sues FDA in bid to overturn decades-old approval for abortion pill

For nearly five decades, women in the U.S. had the constitutional right to abortion, until it was revoked earlier this year by the Supreme Court.

Now, emboldened by the ruling, anti-abortion medical organizations are taking aim at pills that induce miscarriage and have been on the market in the U.S. for more than two decades. Friday, the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom filed (PDF) suit in Amarillo, Texas, against the FDA, challenging the agency’s 2000 approval of Mifeprex.

The 113-page complaint is brought by four anti-abortion medical organizations and four physicians who have treated patients with the drug.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is also named as a defendant. In July, in response to the Supreme Court ruling, the HHS reminded retail pharmacies that they must continue to supply abortion pills as well as birth control and other reproductive care treatments.  

Medication abortion now accounts for more than half of the abortions in the U.S., according to The New York Times. Using Mifeprex, also known as mifepristone, is cheaper, less invasive and offers more privacy than surgery.

Up until last year, Mifeprex could only be prescribed in person and could not be sent by mail. But now, the FDA allows video or phone consultations or by filling out a form online. To be eligible, a candidate must be in a state that allows abortions. Thirteen states currently ban abortion, including Texas. Six others, which don’t ban abortions, don’t allow the drug to be sent by mail.

The suit alleges that the FDA rushed its original approval and justified the decision by calling pregnancy an “illness” and saying that Mifeprex provided a “meaningful therapeutic benefit” over existing treatments.

“In asserting these transparently false conclusions, the FDA exceeded its regulatory authority to approve the drugs,” the suit says.

The legal team bringing the case is the same that challenged the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in a case that began in Mississippi. The Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June.