Attorney General Neronha: Full protections for mifepristone access remain intact in Rhode Island
A federal judge in Washington bars the federal government from taking action that would reduce access to mifepristone in 18 states, including Rhode Island.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – On April 13, Judge Thomas O. Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued an order reiterating that his injunction protecting access to mifepristone in Rhode Island and 17 other states remains in full force and effect notwithstanding recent orders by courts in Texas.
As a result, access to mifepristone in Rhode Island is protected and providers and pharmacies can continue to prescribe and dispense mifepristone in the same manner as they have been.
On April 12, in response to an appeal of a separate Texas lawsuit, a panel of judges in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order imposing restrictions on access to mifepristone. Judge Rice’s order clarifies that those restrictions do not apply to the 18 states, including Rhode Island, that filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Washington to preserve and expand access to abortion medication.
“When we joined this lawsuit, we did so to protect access to safe medication abortion in Rhode Island. I want to reassure patients, providers, and pharmacists in Rhode Island that because of our efforts in this case, access remains undisturbed in Rhode Island, and providers and pharmacists can continue to prescribe and dispense mifepristone,” said Attorney General Peter F. Neronha. “This Office remains committed to the ongoing fight to ensure unimpeded access to reproductive healthcare.”
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum are co-leading the lawsuit filed in February in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. In addition to Attorney General Neronha, attorneys general from Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., partnered on the lawsuit.
On April 7, Judge Rice issued an injunction barring the FDA from “altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of mifepristone” in the states involved in Washington’s lawsuit. The federal government filed a motion seeking clarification of Judge Rice’s decision considering a potentially contradictory order from the Northern District of Texas. Judge Rice responded by clarifying that his order applies “irrespective of” the Northern District of Texas or the Fifth Circuit’s rulings in that separate litigation.
The United States Department of Justice has announced that it will appeal the Fifth Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Fifth Circuit’s order imposing restrictions on mifepristone does not affect the parties to the Washington case. Judge Rice provided clarity today: “Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a), irrespective of the Northern District of Texas Court ruling or the Fifth Circuit’s anticipated ruling, Defendants and their officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and any person in active concert or participation, are preliminary enjoined from: ‘altering the status quo and rights as it relates to the availability of Mifepristone under the current operative January 2023 Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy under 21 U.S.C. § 355-1 in Plaintiff States and the District of Columbia.’”