Rhode Island joins fight back against decision to block medication abortion access

Multistate coalition signs onto amicus brief seeking stay of Texas abortion pill ruling

By: - April 10, 2023 9:07 pm

The abortion drug Mifepristone is also known as RU486. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha Monday signed onto an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit seeking a stay on the Texas abortion pill ruling.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha (Photo courtesy of Rhode Island Office of Attorney General)

The amicus brief urges the court based in New Orleans to stay the ruling by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that could restrict medication abortion access nationwide. If allowed to take effect, the Texas ruling would effectively undo the over two-decade old approval of the medication abortion drug mifepristone by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

On April 7, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, ordered the FDA to stay its approval of mifepristone, which was granted in 2000. The court’s 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.

The U.S. Justice Department is seeking an administrative stay that asks the appeals court to decide before noon on Thursday whether the Texas ruling should take effect on Friday at midnight or if it should be placed on hold during the appeals process. 

Neronha joins a multistate coalition with 23 other attorneys general who are warning that revoking federal approval for mifepristone will drastically reduce access to safe abortion care and miscarriage management for millions of women across the country.

“At a time when a woman’s right to choose, and access to safe abortion, is under assault across the country, it is more important than ever for our Office to take action to ensure that reproductive rights are protected,” Neronha said in a statement released Monday night.

Neronha’s effort follows his move earlier this year to join with 17 other states in a lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Washington to protect access to safe medical abortion. He said a continued stay of this ruling would “ensure continued and unfettered access” to mifepristone in Rhode Island, adding that the drug has been taken safely by more than five million Americans over the past two decades.

U.S. Department of Justice asks appeals court to pause abortion pill ruling

“Through these actions, and the steps we have taken previously, this Office has demonstrated our commitment to the ongoing fight to ensure access to reproductive healthcare remains unimpeded,” Neronha added.

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

In 2019, Neronha joined local leaders in their efforts to codify Roe v. Wade and its progeny under the state’s Reproductive Privacy Act. Last year, Neronha successfully defended a legal challenge to the Reproductive Privacy Act, reaffirming reproductive freedom in the state.

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Janine L. Weisman
Janine L. Weisman

Rhode Island Current Editor-in-Chief Janine L. Weisman served as a reporter and editor during her 25-year career in the newsroom of The Newport Daily News. She is an adjunct journalism faculty member at Roger Williams University.

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