5th Circuit Court ruling sharpens the axe hanging over reproductive healthcare
Statement to the Media
August 17, 2023
On August 16, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against non-prescription and mail-order access to the mifepristone abortion medication and limited use of the drug to seven weeks, rather than 10. The judges overruled provisions that have been in place for the last seven years. However, these negative changes will not go into effect until a U.S. Supreme Court decision is made in the Texas case that posed the original challenge.
The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice views this latest decision, by a highly conservative three-judge panel of Republican appointees, as a further assault on reproductive justice. It is extremely damaging whether or not it is immediately implemented.
The confusion and fear sown by the ruling will undoubtedly discourage many people from seeking legal and safe medications to terminate a pregnancy. The decision is likely to intimidate some pharmacies from supplying the drugs. In this way, the judges have jeopardized access to medication abortion nationally, even in states where abortion remains legal.
Members of the 5th Circuit have described abortion in inflammatory terms in past judicial opinions and once again they have given credence to the assertions of anti-abortion activists who use unscientific lies in describing a common, safe and necessary medical procedure. “The ruling is an insult to science and an attack on all people’s healthcare. The judges put forward no proof that any harm has occurred in the seven years of broader access to the drug,” says Charlotte Strauss Swanson, a member of the National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Mifepristone’s safety has been thoroughly proved over decades of use and research. Decisions about the use of mifepristone should be left up to the scientific and medical experts at the FDA, as is done for every other medication.
Attempts to undermine an individual’s reproductive decisions and bodily autonomy are an attack on all people’s healthcare needs. And opponents of reproductive justice won’t stop there. They also threaten contraception, sex education, non-religious healthcare providers, and social services that are vital to safely bearing and raising children in marginalized communities.
The National Mobilization for Reproductive Justice and its affiliates across the country vow to defend all forms of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. This includes an end to forced sterilization, the right to gender-affirming care, support for LGBTQ+ families and children, and an end to immigration policies that separate families. See the Mobilization’s website, ReproJusticeNow.org, for information on meetings and activities, endorsers, resources and the full list of demands.
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