Two federal district judges, one in Texas and the other in Washington State, have issued contradictory rulings regarding the use of mifepristone, a widely used abortion pill. The Texas judge invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 23-year-old approval of mifepristone, while the judge in Washington State ordered the FDA to make no changes to the availability of the drug in the states involved in that suit. While mifepristone continues to be available, the conflicting rulings have set up a lower court conflict that legal experts believe will eventually be sent to the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has already filed a notice appealing the Texas ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and may also appeal the Washington State case. Legal experts believe that the implications of the Texas ruling could extend beyond access to abortion pills, and could affect the FDA’s authority to approve and regulate other drugs. Some legal experts believe that all six conservative justices on the Supreme Court might not automatically uphold an order that would undercut the FDA’s authority because of its broader implications for federal authority and commercial interests. The Texas case has drawn additional scrutiny because of the judge’s personal views on abortion and the language he used in his ruling. Forum shopping, where litigants seek out a friendly judge or sympathetic court for a nationwide stay or injunction on a hot-button, partisan issue, is a common legal strategy used increasingly by both the right and the left. While legal experts expect the Supreme Court to eventually review the case, they also believe that the court has the ability to handle conflicting injunctions.
Abortion pill cases may reach Supreme Court