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Federal appeals court restricts access to medication abortion
Mifepristone is still available until the Supreme Court weighs in, but experts and lawmakers say the Fifth Circuit’s decision will be felt beyond those who need abortion care.
MEDICATION ABORTION LATEST • The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled to restrict access to the abortion drug mifepristone, including by requiring in-person dispensing after the FDA allowed abortion pills to be dispensed by mail during the COVID-19 public health emergency—instead of requiring patients to receive it at a medical clinic or hospital.
The three-judge panel’s decision also shortened the window mifepristone can be used from the 10th week of pregnancy to the seventh and requires the drug to be administered in the presence of a physician.
However, it overturned a portion of a lower court’s ruling that would have completely revoked the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, which has been in effect since 2000.
The big takeaway: Mifepristone is still broadly available now. The Fifth Circuit’s decision is on hold right now as the case works its way to the Supreme Court. But if the ruling stands, it would represent yet another significant rollback in abortion rights since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer.
One step forward, one step back: The Fifth Circuit’s decision comes a week after Ohio voters defeated a Republican-backed ballot measure and paved the way for the state to enshrine the constitutional right to abortion care with a simple majority this November.
Angela Vasquez-Giroux, vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Supercreator Daily that while attacks on reproductive freedom can be discouraging following energizing wins like the country saw in Ohio last week, it’s critical to keep the current state of play in perspective.
“There are more places in the country that protect abortion access than that restrict at this moment. And we know that what we’re doing in working to protect and expand access is the work that people—80 percent at minimum—want us to be doing,” Vasquez-Giroux said. “So it can be discouraging to see something like today’s decision, but we know who’s on the side of the right and who’s got the will of the people behind them—and it’s not the Fifth Circuit.”
The reactions: Unsurprisingly, anti-abortion advocacy group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America applauded the 5th Circuit’s decision.
“We won’t rest until the FDA and the profit-driven abortion industry are held accountable for the suffering they’ve inflicted on women and girls, as well as the deaths of countless unborn children,” Katie Daniel, policy director for SBA Pro-Life America, said in a statement.
Fact check: 97 percent of all medication abortions are successful and less than one percent of patients experience any type of complications. Medication abortions are safe when performed at home without medical supervision too.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “This lawsuit is a threat to a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her own body and another step towards the ultimate goal of a nationwide abortion ban.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer: “Another extreme court ruling, another reminder that the MAGA agenda is about taking away a women’s right to choose, brick-by-brick. This baseless lawsuit should have never been heard, let alone find its way to the Supreme Court.”
House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark: “Democrats will not stop fighting to defeat these extremist attacks. We refuse to let freedom be a right solely afforded to the powerful and the privileged.”
The ramifications: Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told reporters on Wednesday that the effects of the decision will be felt beyond those who need abortion care.
“The court again engaged in unprecedented second-guessing at the FDA’s decision-making process,” Dalven said. “If this decision is allowed to stand, it will serve as a serious disincentive to research and development of new and critical drugs. It also opens the door for all sorts of people to come into court and try to remove drugs that Americans rely on today.”
How we got here: In April, federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled to ban mifepristone, one of the drugs used in medication abortion, siding with anti-abortion activists who claim the drug was improperly approved by the FDA—despite its high efficacy and low mortality rates. The Supreme Court upheld the FDA’s approval of mifepristone while the Fifth Circuit considered the Biden administration’s appeal.
What’s next: The Justice Department announced it will seek a Supreme Court review of the 5th Circuit’s decision.
“We’ll have to see if the Supreme Court is willing to follow the law and follow the medical evidence or if instead, they will now to pressure from abortion opponents who are seeking to not only take away access to abortion care but do so in a way that will threaten Americans’ access to essential drugs far more broadly,” Dalven said.
👋🏾 HI, HEY, HELLO! Good Thursday morning. It’s August 17, 2023. Thank you for reading Supercreator Daily, your guide to the politicians, power brokers, and policies shaping the American creator experience. What questions do you have about the Fifth Circuit’s decision? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN THE KNOW
MAUI WILDFIRES • As crews continue to search the burn area on the Hawaii island, at least 111 deaths—including children—have been confirmed, according to county officials.
President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will travel to Maui next Monday to meet with first responders, survivors, as well as federal, state, and local officials. The announcement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre followed the president’s commitment on Wednesday during a trip to Wisconsin to visit the island as soon as his presence would not distract from recovery efforts.
“I know when the president travels, he's going to be able to bring hope. And he's going to speak with [Hawaii Gov. Josh Green and First Lady Jaime Green] and talk to survivors and hear their stories,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell told reporters on Wednesday. “And it’s that level of hope that I think is going to really be a positive impact for the community.”
A few more updates from Administrator Criswell:
FEMA to date has:
mobilized millions of liters of water and food.
deployed more than 700 personnel to the disaster, with more than 600 already on the island.
dispensed $2.3 million in assistance to families.
approved over 1,300 registrations for assistance (Criswell did not disclose how many people are eligible for assistance).
There are at least 40 canine search teams on the island. This is in addition to the search and rescue personnel on the way to Maui.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued a 90-day pause on foreclosures of government-issued mortgages.
FEMA has enough resources to support the ongoing response efforts. But without the $12 billion in supplemental funding the White House requested from Congress last week, the agency would have to delay some recovery projects and push them into next year. “We may need more beyond that and my team is assessing that now.”
A quick note about the dogs: Criswell said the difficult search conditions and heat have been especially challenging for the canines.
“They have to deal with issues with their paws walking through glass and debris,” she said. “And in those conditions, the dogs require frequent rest, which is why we are sending in additional dogs to augment the operation.”
2024 ELECTION • Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) will officially launch her Senate campaign with an event in Wilmington on Saturday.
Blunt Rochester will be joined by Tom Carper—the man who hand-picked her to succeed him when he retires from the Senate next year—and local elected officials along with grassroots supporters.
The four-term representative of Delaware’s lone congressional district, Blunt Rochester became an instant frontrunner for Carper’s seat before she announced her candidacy. In addition to Carper’s backing, Blunt Rochester has the support of Senate Democratic Leader Schumer.
Blunt Rochester has already made history as the first woman and first Black person to represent Delaware in Congress. If elected to the Senate, Blunt Rochester would be the first woman of color to represent Delaware and just the third Black woman to serve in the body.
LGBTQ RIGHTS • The North Carolina state legislature voted Wednesday to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of three bills that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender kids, ban trans women and girls from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity, and limit classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Cooper, who has declared a state of emergency for public education in North Carolina, said in a statement the veto overrides represent the General Assembly’s misplaced priorities.
“Every lawmaker in North Carolina that voted to override the governor’s veto should be ashamed of themselves,” Cathryn Oakley, senior director for legal policy at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “These bills range in impact from curriculum censorship to school sports to banning best practice health care, but they have one important throughline: “Extremist legislators are trying to gain political power by harming young people and their families.”
According to an analysis by the HRC, which declared a national state of emergency for the LGBTQ community earlier this year, 2023 is trending to become the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ legislation. Data released today from the HRC Foundation found that nearly eight in 10 LGBTQ Americans report increased fears for their personal safety as a result of gender-affirming care bans.
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All times Eastern
10 a.m. President Biden receives his daily intelligence briefing.
11:25 a.m. The president will leave the White House to travel to Avoca, Pennsylvania, arriving at 12:35 p.m.
12:55 p.m. President Biden will pay respects to former Pennsylvania First Lady Ellen Casey in advance of a viewing.
2:10 p.m. The president will travel from Avoca, Pennsylvania to Camp David, arriving at 3:15 p.m.
Vice President Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and have no public events scheduled.
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
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