Yale Daily News

Following two conflicting decisions — one upholding and one rejecting the FDA’s approval of abortion pill Mifepristone in a Washington and a Texas district court — state leaders and reproductive care providers across Connecticut are deciding their next steps to maintain reproductive healthcare access in the state. 

Texas US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled on Apr. 7 that he is ordering a suspension of Mifepristone’s FDA approval. The drug, which has been approved for 23 years, is used for roughly half of all abortions in the US. He also immediately suspended his ruling for seven days for an appeal that the Department of Justice filed on Monday. On the same day, District Judge Thomas O. Rice in Washington State ruled that the FDA approval of Mifepristone was legal and should be maintained. 

Following the conflicting decisions, state leaders are working with the Federal Department of Justice to appeal the Texas decision while also ensuring that pregnant people in Connecticut have continued access to abortion. 

“This case is not about safety. This is about controlling medical decisions that should be between patients and their doctors,” Governor Ned Lamont wrote to the News. “We will not let this decision derail our fight to defend and strengthen abortion rights. In Connecticut, we remain committed to expanding access to reproductive healthcare.”

On April 10, Attorney General William Tong signed an Amicus Brief with 17 other state Attorneys General  to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit calling for the court to stay the Texas district court decision revoking the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone. 

“The coalition is urging the appeals court to continue to stay the lower court’s unprecedented and legally erroneous decision pending the appeal, given the decades of clinical research and studies that have confirmed Mifepristone’s safety and the critical role medication abortion plays in reproductive health care, particularly in low-income, underserved and rural communities,” Tong told the News.

Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, who recently launched a Reproductive Freedom Caucus with 22 other Lieutenant Governors, told the News that Connecticut’s executive leaders as well as other Lieutenant Governors are working to appeal the decision and are also preparing to take the decision to the Supreme Court. 

Bysiewicz told the News that although the Supreme Court has taken decisions to restrict abortion access in the past, this case is “about federal regulation.” She said she is hopeful that the Supreme Court will uphold FDA approval. 

“This is a matter of federal regulation,” Bysiewicz told the News. “If the court looks at this as more generically as a regulatory issue it is possible they give a positive result, because here’s the thing; 55 million women over 20 years have used this drug. And it would be a huge impediment to reproductive health care and access if this ruling stands.” 

Proponents of revoking the FDA’s approval argue that the FDA rushed to approve the drug without properly considering harmful side effects the drug may have. 

Since the FDA approved Mifepristone in 2000, there have been five deaths associated with the drug for every one million people who have used it, according to the FDA

“This is a politically motivated attack on Mifepristone to curtail abortion access nationwide,” Gretchen Raffa, vice president of public policy, advocacy and organizing at Planned Parenthood of Southern New England told the News. “Judge Kacsmaryk based his decision on junk science and ignored all of the 22- plus year medical evidence.” 

Mifepristone’s safety is on par with those of common over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen according to research published by the National Institute of Health. 

The pill has also been approved for usage in more than 60 other countries.  

“This is really damaging because it limits access for people in rural areas and states like Maine and Vermont in the Northeast will be heavily hit if this decision stands,” Health Policy Fellow with the Reproductive Rights Caucus Sydney Perlotto, MPH ’ ‘24 told the News. “From the broader Public Health perspective, the attacks that we have seen crawl out of the woodwork against the FDA is incredibly problematic.” 

Bysiewicz told the News that the state is also studying ways to ensure that access to abortion remains unfettered. According to Bysiewicz, this will involve planned discussions with the suppliers of the other abortion drug called Misoprostol. 

According to Raffa, the Southern New England Planned Parenthood, which is the abortion provider for Yale, has a supply of abortion medications and the resources to provide abortions without delay even if Mifepristone is banned on April 14. 

The Texas and Washington decisions have also brought advocacy by the State Legislature’s Reproductive Rights Caucus to the forefront. In light of the decisions, Governor Ned Lamont, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, Attorney General William Tong and State Representative Matt Blumenthal hosted a press conference on April 10. At the press conference, they discussed the decisions and legislation proposed by Blumenthal and Rep. Jillian Gillchrest to expand access to reproductive healthcare. 

“This decision is another reminder for all of us to work to get these bills passed to protect the right to choose in Connecticut,” Bysiewicz told the News. “The speaker, the President of the Senate, has been very clear that women’s reproductive rights are extremely important. We’re going to do whatever it takes. And so I know that their legislation will be heard and will be successful.” 

Parts of the bills put forward include funding for a safe harbor fund for pregnant people out of state to use to come to Connecticut for abortion care, expanding Medicaid and HUSKY to fully cover abortions, solidifying funding for training for abortion providers and protecting data privacy of people who receive abortions. 

The Connecticut legislature is currently hearing the set of bills as they move through committee and the legislative process. 

Texas Judge Kacsmaryk was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 and his nomination was approved by the United States Senate in 2019. 

Yash Roy covered City Hall and State Politics for the News. He also served as a Production & Design editor, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion chair for the News. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, he is a '25 in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.