A federal appeals court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that could determine the future of a commonly used abortion pill, opening a line of questioning centered around the drug’s safety and what at least one judge suggested is the fallibility of national drug regulators.
The three-judge panel at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is tasked with reviewing the legal challenge to the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of mifepristone. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a stay that kept the drug on the market and punted the decision about its future back to the appeals court. While the judges — a George W. Bush appointee and two Trump appointees — questioned the drug’s safety, they also interrogated plaintiffs’ claim that doctors who object to abortion were being forced to provide care under current mifepristone regulations.
However, two judges repeatedly came back to the FDA’s decision-making and seemed to reject the government’s argument that a Texas federal judge ordering mifepristone off the market represented “an unprecedented and unjustified attack on FDA scientific expertise,” as U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sarah Harrington said.
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