April 7, 2023 - Texas judge suspends approval of medication abortion pill

By Elise Hammond, Matt Meyer, Tori B. Powell and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 11:53 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023
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8:08 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

White House lawyers are reviewing dueling rulings

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

White House lawyers are currently reviewing the opposing decisions from judges in Washington and Texas on the FDA's approval of a medication abortion pill, according to an official. 

10:44 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

Vice President Harris calls Texas ruling a "dangerous precedent"

Harris speaks with reporters at an airfield in Nashville on Friday, April 7.
Harris speaks with reporters at an airfield in Nashville on Friday, April 7. (Pool)

Making her first remarks on a Texas judge's decision to halt the approval of a medication abortion pill, Vice President Kamala Harris said the decision set "a dangerous precedent."

Harris spoke to reporters at an airfield in Nashville on Friday after meeting with Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee.

“It is contrary to what makes for good public health policy to allow courts and politicians to tell the FDA what it should do,” Harris said.

The vice president noted the FDA approved the drug, mifepristone, 20 years ago, and said it has been "proven to be safe" in the two decades since.

Harris said she would have more remarks after reviewing the judge's ruling. President Joe Biden has yet to publicly weigh in on the case.

"As a general matter, I'll say that there is no question that the president and I are going to stand with the women of America and do everything we can to ensure that women have the ability to make decisions about their health care, their reproductive health care," Harris said.

Remember: There are two major decisions on medication abortion that came down in short succession this evening. After the Texas judge's ruling on mifepristone, a second federal judge ruled the drug must remain on the market in more than a dozen Democratic-led states.

The two decisions mark the most significant abortion-related rulings since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.

CNN's Sam Fossum contributed to this report.

8:07 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

What the federal judge in Washington state said

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

In a striking split screen to the ruling out of Texas, where US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas tore apart the process the FDA used to approve the drug, mifepristone, which is the first drug used in a two-drug regime to terminate a pregnancy, Judge Thomas Owen Rice in Washington state took a more deferential tone toward to the FDA, ordering that the status quo be maintained by keeping the drug on the marker.

“It is not the Court’s role to review the scientific evidence and decide whether mifepristone’s benefits outweigh its risks without REMS and/or ETASU. That is precisely FDA’s role,” Rice said. But he said “the record demonstrates potentially internally inconsistent FDA findings regarding mifepristone’s safety profile.”
10:47 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

Here are the states where medication abortion approval isn’t immediately affected

From CNN's Devan Cole

The states where the approval of mifepristone is not affected, thanks to the ruling from a federal judge Friday in Washington state:

Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC.

10:45 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

Dramatic turn of events: Federal judge in Washington state says FDA cannot withdraw mifepristone

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

In a dramatic turn of events, a federal judge in Washington state said Friday night in a new ruling that the FDA must keep medication abortion drugs available in 17 liberal states and Washington, DC, that sued the FDA to make the abortion pills.

This lawsuit is separate from the ruling that came down in Texas minutes earlier that will halt the approval of the drug. That ruling was paused for seven days, giving the Justice Department time to appeal.

8:02 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

Medical abortion ruling could have long-term impacts on FDA approval and drug manufacturers

A federal judge's decision could have long-term impacts on the trust in the FDA's approval process and chill pharmaceutical companies from developing new drugs, according to Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent.

Mifepristone has about 5 deaths per million users, while other commonly used drugs like Penicillin have about 20 deaths per million users, she said.

“So if this judge is so concerned about side effects, why isn't he saying let's take penicillin off the market?” Cohen said.

“This is why decisions are not made by judges. Medical and drug decisions are made by doctors and scientists, by teams of them at the FDA," she added.

Further, Cohen said a ruling that allows a judge to take a drug off the market could make pharmaceutical companies nervous. She said confidence in scientists at the FDA is critical for the development and creation of new drugs people need.

"If they think that just one judge can take that drug off the market, they may not be willing to invest that kind of money," Cohen said.

8:02 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

Judge's ruling is "quite stunning," CNN medical correspondent says

The move to suspend the FDA's two-decade-old approval of mifepristone was a stunning move, CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen said Friday.

"Not having this for doctors to prescribe for patients is really quite stunning," Cohen said. "It will be quite devastating to many patients."

She said it will "be a real problem for reproductive healthcare" if women aren't allowed to take mifepristone.

She added that FDA scientists are "the ones who look through all the data."

"To have a single judge say essentially that he's smarter than the FDA is really quite stunning," she said.

8:02 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

Suspending mifepristone is "quite scary" for women, CNN medical correspondent says

More than half of abortions in the United States are medication abortions, said Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent, which means a new ruling from a federal judge in Texas to suspend FDA approval of one of the medical abortion drugs is going to impact people across the country.

He is pausing his ruling for seven days so the federal government can appeal, but if at any point that suspension goes into effect, it will take away the option of medical abortion.

The drug, mifepristone, is the first drug in the medication abortion process.

"The implications really are quite scary," Cohen said. "This would, if it goes through, would get rid of that because of the opinion of one judge. So women really rely on this."

Cohen said women rely on mifepristone and medical abortions for other circumstances as well, including when they have miscarriages or need to have an abortion because the fetus is non-viable.

"They rely on this for all sorts of reasons, and they wouldn't be able to do that," Cohen said.

8:02 p.m. ET, April 7, 2023

CNN legal analyst: "This isn't going to be the last word."

From CNN's Devan Cole

CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck said Judge Kacsmaryk’s ruling “may never go into effect,” but that the administration will now have to appeal it to higher courts that are stacked with conservative jurists. 

“This isn't going to be the last word. Even Judge Kascmaryk recognizes that he can’t let this ruling go into immediate effect. And it may never go into effect,” said Vladeck, who is a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.  

“But this puts the onus on the Biden administration to get either the most conservative appeals court in the country, or the most conservative Supreme Court in our lifetime, to freeze this ruling before it can go into effect,” Vladeck added.