(Amarillo) The future of a pill used by half a million American women each year to terminate their pregnancy is being played out on Wednesday in Texas before an ultra-conservative judge, who opponents of abortion are asking to suspend its authorization for all United States.
The hearing, which was kept secret until Monday to avoid possible spillovers, began at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Eastern Time) in a court in Amarillo, and only a very small audience attended. was allowed to attend.
Outside, a handful of protesters hold up signs saying “Not your womb, not your decision” or “Let’s stand up for medical abortion.” Among them, Lindsay London, a 41-year-old nurse, deplores a legal remedy “100% ideological, which has no scientific basis”.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was a lawyer for a Christian organization before being appointed to this position by former Republican President Donald Trump, will spend several hours questioning the parties.
He will then be able to render his decision at any time in this case likely to have an impact as resounding as the judgment of the Supreme Court of the United States having dynamited, last June, the right to abortion at the federal level.
Since then, fifteen states have banned all abortions on their soil, and therefore the abortion pill. But it is still widely used elsewhere. This is what is threatened today.
In November, a coalition of doctors and anti-abortion groups filed a complaint against the United States Drug Administration (FDA), which they accuse of having authorized 23 years ago mifepristone (RU 486), one of the two pills used for medical termination of pregnancy.
The plaintiffs accuse the FDA of choosing “politics over science”, by approving a “dangerous” chemical, and of having “exceeded its prerogatives” in the process.
Pending the examination of the substantive arguments, they requested that the authorization of mifepristone be suspended throughout the territory.
Strategically, they brought their appeal to Amarillo, a Texas city away from major urban centers, where Matthew Kacsmaryk is the only federal judge.
Her profile and her claimed opposition to abortion have raised concern in the ranks of advocates of the right to abortion.
“It seems unbelievable that a simple judge in Texas could make a decision that would impact a product that has been approved by health authorities and has been safely marketed for over twenty years,” said Elisa Wells, founder of the Plan C network of information on abortion pills, from AFP.
Such a decision would be “devastating for women”, had already denounced ten days ago the spokesperson for the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre.
Since the year 2000, more than 5.6 million women have used this pill in the United States and a tiny proportion (less than 1500) have subsequently experienced complications, without a link being established, after the FDA.
Today, the majority (53%) of pregnancy terminations are medical, a less intrusive and less costly procedure than surgical abortions.
Judge Kacsmaryk’s decision, whatever it is, may be appealed to the federal appeals court in New Orleans, also known for its conservatism. The case could again end up before the Supreme Court of the United States which, since its reshuffle by Donald Trump, has six conservative magistrates out of nine.
Even if the court ultimately suspended the FDA’s approval, it would likely take several months before its decision took effect. According to health law experts, the drug regulator must follow a strict procedure before withdrawing the authorization of a product.
Women and doctors could also fall back on a second pill, misoprostol, the use of which is now combined with mifepristone for greater effectiveness and less pain.
“In any case, I think it will be chaotic when the judge makes his decision,” predicts Elisa Wells.