Democrats slam Texas abortion pill ruling but are short on legislative solutions

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(WASHINGTON) — Top Democrats on Saturday slammed the ruling by a federal judge in Texas suspending the FDA approval of Mifepristone, though they were short on possible legislative solutions to protect access to the abortion drug.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Washington Sen. Patty Murray looked to paint the controversial decision by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk as a political move meant to advance a Republican anti-abortion agenda.

Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointed judge, ruled regulators improperly approved the abortion pill mifepristone, one of the most common methods of abortion in the U.S., 23 years ago. The Department of Justice appealed the decision late Friday, with Attorney General Merrick Garland stating he strongly disagreed with Kacsmaryk’s position.

“This is an awful extreme and unprecedented decision. Let’s be clear: This is about the Republican’s goal of a nation-wide abortion ban,” Schumer said in a press call with reporters. “This is about stripping away healthcare for millions of Americans and this is about MAGA Republicans using the courts to enact an extreme agenda that is wildly unpopular with the American people.”

Murray, who formerly chaired the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and who has long advocated for access to abortion care, said the ruling “did not happen by accident.”

“Dozens of Republicans in congress and Republicans AG all supported this lawsuit,” Murray said. “Republicans want to ban abortion everywhere from Seattle to New York. Senate Democrats are going to continue to fight back with every tool at our disposal.”

But the senators were relatively short on details about what legislative action will or could be taken, saying only that the focus should be on securing a swift appeal of the Texas judge’s ruling.

“Our most important task is to have this appealed,” Murray said. “For the next six days this drug is available, women need to know that.”

Schumer said Democrats would “work in every way we can legislatively” to protect abortion rights, and said he’d try to gain support for the Women’s Health Protection Act — a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade at the federal level and prohibit governmental restrictions on access to abortion services.

But the WHPA failed last year, with every Senate Republican and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voting against it.

Any similar legislation would likely face an uphill battle in the divided Congress.

Asked whether there was any conversation with the Biden administration about possible executive actions, senators were similarly vague.

“We are working with everyone for contingency on what could happen,” Murray said.

“We believe there are going to be all kinds of decisions and legislative decisions because the Republican Party is so hell bent on taking away a woman’s right to choose,” Schumer followed. “We are going to fight them every single step of the way and we believe that we will succeed.”

Biden also criticized the Texas ruling as a “political, ideological” attack and said his administration would “fight it” through the appeals process. But he maintained the White House’s view that the only way to protect abortion rights is for Congress to take action.

“Let’s be clear — the only way to stop those who are committed to taking away women’s rights and freedoms in every state is to elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring Roe versus Wade,” Biden said. “Vice President Harris and I will continue to lead the fight to protect a woman’s right to an abortion, and to make her own decisions about her own health. That is our commitment.”

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