Debevoise Files Amicus Brief Asking Fifth Circuit to Protect Access to Mifepristone

12 April 2023

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has filed an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of 12 leading medical and public health societies in an effort to protect access to mifepristone, a drug commonly used in medication abortion, as well as miscarriage care and other treatments. After a Federal District Court in Amarillo, Texas issued an order that would effectively halt the use of mifepristone nationwide, the FDA asked the Fifth Circuit stay that decision pending resolution on appeal.

The brief supports the FDA’s request to stay the lower court’s order. It underscores that the FDA’s approval of mifepristone more than two decades ago was based on “robust evidence showing mifepristone was extremely safe,” with “serious side effects . . . occurring in less than 1% of patients.” The brief stresses that the District Court relied exclusively on biased and methodologically flawed studies, most of which were authored by anti-abortion advocates. It further highlights that mifepristone has become an essential medicine for the treatment of miscarriages and other pregnancy-related conditions, and makes clear that denying access to mifepristone will exacerbate the risks already associated with pregnancy and childbirth and will inevitably impede access to quality care. As stated in the brief, “[Denying access to the drug will have the most severe implications] for people of color as well as low-income and rural patients, who are more likely to die or develop serious complications from pregnancy, and who have limited access to alternative procedures (i.e., procedural abortion) or lack the ability to travel long distances for health care.”

The brief was filed on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the American Academy of Nursing, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Council of University Chairs of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the North American Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, the Society of Family Planning, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, and the Society of OB/GYN Hospitalists.

The Debevoise team is led by litigation partner Shannon Rose Selden and associates Adam Aukland-Peck and Megan McGuiggan, and includes associates Nicole Marton, Hillary Hubley, and Anu Chugh, along with law clerks Elise Marie Coletta, Prakriti Luthra and Charlotte Blatt.