The anti-abortion doctors who first brought the case seeking to get mifepristone yanked from the markets filed a reply brief Tuesday, starting the clock on the Supreme Court’s response.
It’s the latest entry in the case that originated in Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s court in Amarillo, Texas. After he ruled to stay the Food and Drug Administration’s 20-year-old approval of mifepristone, the Department of Justice appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit broke from Kacsmaryk on the initial approval (though without much conviction) but upheld challenges to virtually all the changes in the drug’s regulatory scheme since 2016, reimposing a slate of onerous restrictions on mifepristone including significantly cutting how many days into a pregnancy it can be taken on-label and barring the pills from being mailed.
The government, along with a manufacturer of mifepristone, asked the Supreme Court to stay or vacate the Fifth Circuit’s ruling while it appeals that decision. The Supreme Court granted an administrative stay last week, putting those old restrictions on ice for a few more days. That stay expires just before midnight on Wednesday.
One of the toughest barriers the anti-abortion contingent has to scale in convincing the Supreme Court to let the case continue to play out at the Fifth Circuit is the clear conflict between this mifepristone case, and another out of Washington state. There, a federal judge ruled — and reaffirmed — that the FDA needs to keep mifepristone available as usual in the states and district involved. Meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit ruled to bring back the years-old restrictions nationwide.
The anti-abortion group’s lawyers largely claim that the conflict is inconsequential in their Tuesday filing, since the Washington case is still at the district court.
“There is no current circuit split, and there may never be one,” they write. “In particular, the government has not even appealed the decision from the Washington District Court which, to date, is only potentially conflicting.”
The lawyers also minimize the disruption negating years of FDA changes and updates would cause.
“The agency need only go back to its preapproved 2011 regimen and label,” they write, immediately contradicting themselves: “The ‘threat’ of conflicting orders here is also illusory, as the Fifth Circuit’s order does not require FDA to do anything.”
The government has said that adjusting the drug’s labeling alone would take “months,” and that the Fifth Circuit’s ruling would also revoke the agency’s approval of generic mifepristone — which was only granted in 2019; the branded version of Mifeprex was approved in 2000 — permanently.
See here for the previous entry. It is expected that SCOTUS will rule by tonight, because that is when their administrative hold expires. Of interest, via Axios, is that a whole bunch of Republican members of Congress filed an amicus brief on the side of the mifepristone-banners.
Details: The 147 lawmakers, led by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to allow the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling reinstating mifepristone’s restrictions to take effect.
What we’re watching: The handful of signers facing competitive elections in 2024 should expect it to come up in attacks on the campaign trail, two Democratic operatives told Axios.
- Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Monica De La Cruz (R-Texas) are top targets for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which blasted Boebert last week for signing the 5th Circuit brief.
- Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) are also seen as potentially vulnerable.
- Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) is also running to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), while Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) are considering Senate bids against Democratic incumbents.
Meanwhile, 253 Democrats last week filed a brief urging the justices to block the lower court rulings, arguing that Congress has not allowed federal courts “to substitute their judgment for the expert conclusions of FDA’s scientists.”
As before, I appreciate them clarifying the stakes here. And I better see this be a big part of the 2024 campaigns against Cruz and de la Cruz. Either these pro-reproductive choice arguments work here in Texas, or we’ll find out that they don’t and we’ll need to figure it out from there. Slate has more.