Jun 12, 2024  |  
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Cami Mondeaux, Congressional Reporter

NextImg:Democrats critical of colleagues telling Biden to ignore courts on abortion pill decision

Some Democrats are calling on the Biden administration to ignore a federal judge’s ruling to halt the approval of an abortion pill nationwide, prompting criticism from within their own party who say public defiance could undermine efforts to appeal the decision.

A handful of Democrats, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) denounced the decision to halt the FDA’s approval of mifepristone until a lawsuit challenging the safety of the pill can be resolved, effectively banning the sale of the abortion pill across the country. Instead, Ocasio-Cortez called on President Joe Biden to defy the federal judge and not enforce his ruling.


However, some officials inside the Biden administration pushed back on that suggestion, noting it could undermine their efforts as they work to appeal the ruling.

“It’s a very, very loose Band-Aid that wouldn’t actually ensure access to medication abortion,” a source told Politico. “And when you have another option on the table, like the appeals process, it’s a pretty risky strategy.”

The White House official said ignoring the rule would be “premature” for a couple of reasons, noting that such a move wouldn’t stop GOP-led states from enacting their own bans or prosecuting those who violate them. Additionally, doctors could still be hesitant to prescribe the medication even if Biden ignores the rules, rendering his defiance irrelevant.

The ban on mifepristone is not set to take effect for another week, giving higher courts time to consider the Biden administration’s appeal. The Biden administration announced on Friday it would appeal the decision, but that didn’t stop Democrats such as Ocasio-Cortez from calling on the president to do more.

"The interesting thing when it comes to a ruling is that it relies on enforcement," Ocasio-Cortez told CNN. "And it is up to the Biden administration to enforce, to choose whether or not to enforce a ruling."

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) echoed similar sentiments, arguing the FDA has the “authority” to disregard the judge’s ruling.

"There is no way this decision has a basis in law,” Wyden said in a statement. “It is instead rooted in conservatives' dangerous and undemocratic takeover of our country's institutions.”

Some critics slammed Wyden’s call to ignore a judge’s ruling, pointing to previous comments from the Democrat suggesting law enforcement should always follow court deliberations.

“Law enforcement refusing to obey the courts threatens the foundations of our republic,” Wyden said in a tweet in August 2017.

Shortly after the Texas decision, a federal judge in Washington State issued a conflicting order that would block the FDA from restricting access to the pills in roughly a dozen blue states that initially filed the lawsuit. That ruling clashes with the Texas decision, making it more likely that the issue could be brought to the Supreme Court.

The lawsuit to ban the pill was filed shortly after the Supreme Court's decision last June to overturn Roe v. Wade, which opened the door for red states to enact sharp abortion restrictions. Several anti-abortion medical associations argued the FDA went beyond its regulatory authority in approving mifepristone back in 2000.

In his 67-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk said the FDA had failed to evaluate the psychological or long-term medical consequences of the pill, which the agency had deemed safe and effective.


The FDA has repeatedly said that abortion medication is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortions. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and other medical associations argued in a court filing that reversing mifepristone's approval would "cause profound and irreparable harm to patients across the country."

It's unclear the scope of the effects of taking mifepristone off the market, though abortion rights groups had previously warned it could force abortion clinics to switch to surgical abortions only, which could inundate many facilities.