A judicious fight
A federal judge out of Eastern Washington ruled on April 13 that access to a drug commonly used in medication abortion will continue in 18 states that sued to protect it. The decision came a day after a three-judge panel in Texas allowed pregnant people to continue to use the drug but with significant restrictions.
Attorneys general from 18 different states sued in February to maintain access to mifepristone. These actions were preemptive, in anticipation of a ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, known for being anti-abortion, that would revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the drug.
The widely panned ruling, which cites anti-abortion websites and philosophers rather than medical professionals, was on pause for seven days while the federal government appealed to the Fifth Circuit’s three-judge panel. That panel decided to allow people to continue to use mifepristone, blocking part of Kacsmaryk’s ruling, but with significant barriers.
Pregnant people who want access to mifepristone, according to the panel, have to get it within seven weeks of pregnancy — a difficult standard for many people because pregnancy is dated to the first missed menstrual cycle — and they can no longer get it through the mail.
Judge Thomas Rice out of Washington gave a decision contradicting Kacsmaryk’s ruling hours after it came out on April 7. The FDA asked for clarification, given that the two orders were fundamentally opposed. On April 13, Rice held that “his order applied ‘irrespective of’ the Northern District of Texas or the Fifth Circuit’s rulings in that separate litigation,” according to a press release by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Health care for Dreamers
A federal rule proposed April 13 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would allow undocumented people who came to the United States as children to access various public health care programs.
Under the new rule, people who qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — more commonly known as “Dreamers” — would be able to enroll in programs including Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Programs and private insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act.
According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 34 percent of DACA recipients do not have health insurance.
The proposal was cheered by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. In a statement, executive director Angelica Salas said that this would correct an injustice from the Obama administration, which did not include DACA recipients in these public health care programs.
While access to health care is welcome, stability for DACA recipients and the 11 million other undocumented immigrants in the United States is imperative, she said. President Joe Biden has called on Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients.
Read more of the Apr. 19-25, 2023 issue.