AG Schwalb Joins 23 AGs Fighting Back Against Decision to Block Medication Abortion Access

Coalition Files New Brief Arguing that Ruling to Disrupt FDA Approval of Mifepristone Could Endanger Lives Nationwide

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb, along with 23 other attorneys general, today filed an amicus brief seeking to stop a court ruling from restricting access to mifepristone, a safe and effective prescription abortion medication.

In a brief filed in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, the attorneys general urge the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to stay pending appeal a district court ruling which—if allowed to take effect—would suspend the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone more than two decades after the drug was originally approved. The coalition of AGs argues that revoking federal approval for mifepristone will drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management for millions of people across the country, endanger lives, and trample states’ authority to protect and promote access to abortion. 

“Last week’s unprecedented trial court decision second guessing the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, a safe and effective prescription abortion medicine, will jeopardize the health of millions of Americans,” said AG Schwalb. “The trial court, by improperly substituting its political views about abortion for the informed and decades-long scientific findings of the FDA, committed legal error and, in so doing, put people’s lives and well-being at risk. We are urging the Court of Appeals to stay this erroneous decision pending appeal. The DC Office of the Attorney General is committed to protecting reproductive freedom in the District of Columbia and nationwide. As of today, abortion care—including medication abortion—remains legal and available in DC, and we’ll continue fighting to keep it that way.”

On April 7, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in a lawsuit brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to revoke the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. The ruling ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pause its approval of mifepristone, which occurred in 2000. The order did not take effect immediately, as the district court put its ruling on hold for seven days to give the federal government and the drug manufacturer an opportunity to appeal.

Attorney General Schwalb and the coalition are urging the appeals court to continue to put the unprecedented and legally erroneous decision on hold pending appeal, given decades of clinical research and studies that have confirmed mifepristone’s safety and the critical role medication abortion plays in reproductive health care, particularly in low-income and underserved communities. 

The coalition also argues that if the district court decision takes effect, it could drastically curtail abortion access for millions of Americans. Mifepristone has been particularly critical in providing access to safe abortion care in low-income, underserved, and rural communities. According to current estimates, medication abortion accounts for about 54% of all abortions performed in the United States. Obstructing access to mifepristone would lead demand for procedural abortions to significantly increase, resulting in later and more risky procedures, and more complicated and costly logistics for many. Moreover, lack of access to safe abortion care leads to worsened health outcomes and higher mortality, especially for Black women.

A copy of the amicus brief is available here.

Joining AG Schwalb in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of New York, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Background on OAG’s Advocacy for Reproductive Rights

OAG has a long record advocating for reproductive rights and justice. Since 2018, OAG engaged more than 50 times in court cases and rulemaking processes on reproductive rights, including participating in amicus briefs, joining multi-state lawsuits and multi-state comment letters, and working to educate DC residents about their rights to abortion care. In early 2023, AG Schwalb joined a coalition including  17 other attorneys general that filed a multistate lawsuit to expand access to medication abortion, leading to a recent contrary ruling  that preserves access to mifepristone in those states and the District.

Additionally, DC and 23 states filed an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization before the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing against Mississippi’s abortion ban and calling on the court to uphold its precedent protecting a woman’s right to decide before viability whether to carry a pregnancy to term. DC also joined a multistate coalition in filing an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s challenge to Texas’ six-week ban on abortions. During the Trump administration, OAG worked to protect access to reproductive health care, including by filing a lawsuit to protect access to abortion for individuals who purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s state health care exchanges and by challenging the administration’s actions that prevented some immigrant women from accessing abortion care while in federal custody.