Yesterday, Legal Voice, along with Perkins Coie, filed an amicus brief in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. FDA, in support of the FDA’s appeal to the Fifth Circuit, to ensure access to mifepristone–an essential health care option for people seeking abortion. The lower court’s decision to override both the FDA’s approval of mifepristone and recent FDA decisions to improve access to mifepristone is unprecedented and dangerous. 

What is an Amicus Curiae Brief?

Latin for “friend of the court,” an amicus brief is provided by an individual or organization who is not party to the case but has expertise or insight to offer in assistance of the court making a decision. 

About the Lawsuit

  • In November 2022, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (an anti-abortion organization) filed a case against the FDA challenging the FDA’s decision to approve mifepristone–an evidence-based decision the FDA made in 2000. They also challenged the FDA’s recent actions to make the medication more accessible. These anti-abortion extremists filed in federal court in the Northern District of Texas, with the aim to get assigned to Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk–an anti-abortion judge. 
  • On April 7, 2023, Judge Kacsmaryk issued a decision to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. This would essentially take the medication off the market and drastically reduce the availability  of mifepristone. On April 10, the FDA appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and requested that the lower court’s decision be immediately put on hold on an emergency basis. 
  • On April 12, the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling putting part of the decision on hold. The Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the district court’s order against FDA approval of mifepristone, but the Fifth Circuit left in place the district court’s other rulings  reducing access. 
  • On April 13, the Department of Justice announced it would seek emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court. 
  • On April 21, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of the district court’s order, meaning, mifepristone will continue to be on the market and more recent FDA decisions to increase access, including allowing telemedicine for mifepristone, remain in effect while the case proceeds to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. 
  • The case is scheduled to be heard before the Fifth Circuit on May 17.  

Amicus Brief Details

In their brief, Legal Voice and other amici organizations that work to end gender-based violence argue that blocking access to mifepristone would be especially harmful to survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). Many survivors need access to abortion but face many barriers getting care due to coercive control by abusers, lack of resources, difficulty traveling, safety concerns, and more. 

This is especially true for survivors of IPV who experience multiple forms of marginalization, including those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color; are part of the LGBTQ+ community; live in rural or underserved areas; or have immigration or socio-economic barriers to accessing care. These communities experience disproportionate systemic inequities that exacerbate the conditions of coercive control and exacerbate barriers to abortion care.

This is an unprecedented and dangerous case, and the lower court’s decision flies in the face of legal precedent and baselessly overrides the FDA’s scientific judgment. If the anti-abortion plaintiffs succeed in removing mifepristone from the market entirely or rolling back FDA decisions that improve patient access, the already difficult process of accessing abortion care will be even harder for survivors, especially for those who exist at the intersection of marginalized identities.

Organizations Who Signed Onto the Amicus Brief

Family Violence Appellate Project

Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence

Legal Voice

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Sanctuary for Families

Sexual Violence Law Center

Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence 

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