Most Oregonians, like most Americans, want abortion to be available to pregnant people who want one. But it's easy to become complacent about abortion access in our state because we lean so Democratic.
Today's abortion ruling by a far-right federal judge in Amarillo, Texas shows that this complacency is misplaced. For if it stands, the ruling would make mifepristone, a drug used to induce an abortion, unavailable in all 50 states.
A Texas federal judge ruled Friday evening to suspend the FDA’s approval of mifepristone — one of two drugs used together to cause an abortion — virtually banning the sale of the pills across the country. The decision, however, will not take effect for a week, giving higher courts time to consider the appeal the Biden administration filed Friday night and delaying for now the impact on hundreds of thousands of patients who use the medication both for abortions and treating miscarriages.
U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, sided with anti-abortion medical groups that challenged the federal regulation of the drug, ruling that both the initial approval of the pills in 2000 as well as more recent FDA decisions allowing them to be prescribed via telemedicine, sent by mail and dispensed at retail pharmacies, are unlawful.
The Biden Justice Department is appealing the ruling. Almost certainly the Supreme Court will end up deciding this issue. Today a federal court in Washington state issued a contrary ruling in a case filed by 17 blue states and D.C. (including Oregon) that requires the FDA to continue making mifepristone available.
A Slate story provides a good overview of the controversy.
What's galling is that Judge Kacsmaryk was chosen to hear the mifepristone case by abortion opponents because his anti-abortion views are so well known. Because he's the only federal judge in Amarillo, Kacsmaryk gets "judge-shopped" by right-wingers who know that if they file a suit in his district, they'll get Kacsmaryk.
This effort to have the most common means of getting an abortion banned nationwide should put to rest any fantasy that Republicans just want to leave it up to the states to decide whether abortion should be legal following the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Actually, Republicans are determined to make abortion unavailable everywhere, including Oregon. Keep this in mind next time you vote and see a "R" by a candidate's name. That letter means that the candidate embraces a party that rejects the right of people in a state to decide whether abortion is available.
Even if the Supreme Court allows mifepristone to remain on the market, there's little doubt that the next goal of Republicans will be to push federal legislation that says life begins at conception, so abortion at any stage of a pregnancy is murder.
All the GOP needs to achieve this is to hold onto the House in the 2024 election, take back the Senate, and win the presidency -- each of which is disturbingly possible.
The only good news I can draw from Judge Kacsmaryk's decision today is this: the politics surrounding abortion are much better for Democrats than for Republicans. This was evident in last Tuesday's election for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat that hinged on the candidates' abortion positions.
The pro-choice candidate won easily, about 55-45 in a state that typically goes 50-50 in statewide elections. So the more Republicans push to ban abortion in swing states and blue states, the more likely it is that their unpopular position on this issue will turn off voters to the GOP.
Unfortunately, in the near term a nationwide ban on mifepristone would do a lot of harm. Hopefully the Supreme Court will understand that allowing Judge Kacsmaryk's crazy ruling to stand would be unfair and unjust.
For mifepristone has been proven to be safe and effective for the 23 years it has been available in this country after getting FDA approval in 2000. Prior to that date, it was available in Europe, also with few problems.
If a right-wing federal judge can get away with banning safe and effective drugs that have been in use for many years, nothing would prevent Republicans from doing away with birth control drugs. Yes, that would be hard to believe, but today's Republican Party is always finding fresh unbelievable horrors to inflict on the American people.