Sixth Circuit Addresses RU-486
Special Report - August 24, 2009
In what pro-life groups are calling a “victory for women’s health,” a federal appeals court has vacated a permanent injunction of an Ohio law that regulates the use of RU-486, the abortion drug that causes an abortion of a developing baby up to 49 days after the last menstrual cycle. The August 6 order from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals is the latest in an ongoing federal lawsuit involving a legal challenge to the 2004 law by several Planned Parenthood affiliates in the Ohio region.
The law was enacted by the Ohio legislature in 2004 and requires that RU-486 (also known as “mifepristone”) only be dispensed by a physician who does so “in accordance with all provisions of federal law” governing its use. It has been in legal limbo since September 2004, when a district court issued a preliminary injunction against it on the grounds that it lacked a health exception for women. The district court later issued a permanent injunction against the law, concluding that the law was vague. In 2008, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Ohio Supreme Court to review the law and issue an interpretation of it. In July 2009, a 4 to 3 majority of the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that, “The plain language of [the Ohio law] mandates that physicians providing mifepristone to patients for the purpose of inducing an abortion do so in accordance with the FDA drug approval letter and the final printed labeling it incorporates, including compliance with the 49-day gestational limitation and the treatment protocols and dosage indications expressly approved by the FDA.”
Americans United for Life (AUL) filed an amicus brief in the Sixth Circuit on behalf of one U.S. Senator and 10 House members, including Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who support the Ohio law. According the brief, Cong. McHenry, along with Cong. Mark Souder (R-IN), were part of a 2006 House subcommittee hearing on the dangers of RU-486, which resulted in a report that concluded that RU-486 should be withdrawn from the federal market. The AUL brief argued in part that the Ohio law “is not void for vagueness in the context of such decisions. The FDA’s protocol is clear to both parties, and physicians routinely prescribe medications in accordance with federal law.”
In response to the Ohio Supreme Court’s opinion, the Sixth Circuit vacated the permanent injunction against the law on August 6, but left the preliminary injunction in place. It sent the case back to the district court “for consideration of the Ohio Supreme Court’s opinion,” as well as other issues.
“Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers have readily admitted that they administer RU-486 in violation of the FDA-approved protocol for the drug,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, CEO and President of Americans United for Life, in a press release. “In response, Ohio rightly sought to protect women from such dangerous practices, and the Sixth Circuit has ratified that decision.”
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