“That’s not America,” says HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra following a Texas judge’s ruling to suspend FDA’s approval of abortion medication
Becerra commented on the ruling issued last Friday by District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk — a Trump appointee, on CNN’s State of the Union.
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“Everything is on the table,” was a chilling message from Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, who commented on the recent decision from a Texas District Judge to suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion medication, mifepristone, on Easter Sunday, April 9, during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.
“We want the courts to overturn this reckless decision,” Becerra said. “Everything is on the table. The president said that way back when the Dobbs decision came out. Every option is on the table,” Becerra said, referring to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
In conversation with CNN’s Dana Bash, the secretary did not confirm if he believes the FDA should ignore the ruling and keep the drug on the market, but did reiterate his stance that the Biden administration is keeping all options open.
The ruling handed down by District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk — a Trump appointee — last Friday was another attack on abortion rights protections, and could suspend approval of a drug used in medication abortions by women all over the U.S., including in states with strict protections.
“First and foremost, when you turn upside down the entire FDA approval process, you’re not talking about just mifepristone,” he said. “You’re talking about every kind of drug. You’re talking about our vaccines, you’re talking about insulin, you’re talking about the new Alzheimer’s drugs that may come on.”
In what is likely the biggest blow against abortion protections since the overturn of Roe v. Wade last Summer — the ruling has only not affected the most-commonly used method of abortion in the U.S. but also other drugs the FDA has approved or might still approve.
“This is not America,” Becerra said on Sunday. “What you saw is that one judge in that one court in that one state, that’s not America. America goes by the evidence. America does what’s fair. America does what is transparent, and we can show that what we do is for the right reasons. That’s not America.”
An appeal on the ruling has already been filed by the Biden administration, which came out the same day that a federal judge in Washington state ruled that the FDA had put “overly burdensome” regulations on the medication.
The Justice Department and Danco, a mifepristone manufacturer, have both also filed appeals. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Danco said in statements that they will also seek “stays” of the ruling, meaning that the decision remains frozen while the appeal moves forward.
As far as the ruling itself, according to Judge Kacsmaryk, the FDA failed to consider “the intense psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress women often experience from chemical abortion.” The term “chemical abortion,” a preferred term by abortion opponents, was repeatedly mentioned in his ruling, as was “abortionist” and “unborn human.”
He also suggested that the data used by the FDA was downplaying the amount of times in which the drug was being mistakenly administered to someone who had an ectopic pregnancy — a pregnancy outside the cavity of the uterus.
He said the FDA’s refusal to impose certain restrictions on the drug’s use “resulted in many deaths and many more severe or life-threatening adverse reactions.”
“Whatever the numbers are, they likely would be considerably lower had FDA not acquiesced to the pressure to increase access to chemical abortion at the expense of women’s safety,” he said.
Becerra responded strongly to these comments and the rest during his appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, as he also added that all judges should consider the facts in front of them as opposed to their own personal and political beliefs.
“If a judge decides to substitute his preference, his personal opinion for that of scientists and medical professionals, what drug isn’t subject to some kind of legal challenge?” Becerra said. “So we have to go to court — and for America’s sake, and for women’s sake, we have to prevail on this.”
Kacsmaryk’s ruling caught the attention of several Democratic lawmakers including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who responded to the ruling over the weekend.
“The reality of our courts right now is very disturbing,” AOC said on CNN on Sunday. “This ruling is an extreme abuse of power. It is an extraordinary example of judicial overreach.”
“I think one of the things that we need to examine is the grounds of that ruling.” But I do not believe that the courts have the authority over the FDA that they just asserted, and I do believe that it creates a crisis,” she added.
Cortez Masto on the other hand, saw the ruling from Kacsmaryk, as part of an effort to further strip women across the country of their rights.
“This is a concerted effort that we see playing across the country. And we have to be vigilant,” Masto told MSNBC’s Jenn Psaki. “This is a concerted effort they have had to really erode and take back women’s rights in this country. And this is about our freedom.”
The ruling also prompted action from Pennsylvania’s Governor Josh Shapiro, who on Monday April 10, announced the launch of a new state website for reproductive health care resources.
Shapiro said Kacsmaryk's ruling doesn't affect the ability of residents or non-residents to get abortion services in Pennsylvania, with the new website helping users find a provider near them, make a plan and get financial support.
"As your Governor, I believe decisions on reproductive care are to be made between women and their doctors, not extremist politicians or radical court rulings. Let's be clear: this Texas judge's attempt to restrict access to medication abortions is just another attack on a woman's right to choose. This is about protecting our freedoms, and I won't back down from that fight,” Shapiro said in a statement.