The lawsuit concerns a rule requiring abortion seekers to visit health care providers in person to acquire one of the pills for medication abortions, which the Food and Drug Administration does not require to be taken while in the presence of the health care provider. Abortion rights advocates say the rule should be loosened in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Particularly in light of the substantial spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks that increases the risk of all travel,” Judge Theodore D. Chuang, of the US District Court for the District of Maryland, wrote Wednesday, “the Court does not find that any changes to economic conditions or access to medical facilities, childcare, or transportation since the issuance of the (prior block on the rule) have been so favorable as to constitute changed circumstances” to warrant altering it.
CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.
Several reproductive health groups, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued the FDA in May over the long-standing requirement, arguing that it was unconstitutional for the agency to maintain the rule for the abortion drug while lifting it for other drugs in light of the pandemic.
In court filings later that month, the Trump administration asserted that the “changes in the circumstances of this pandemic have removed or significantly mitigated the burdens on abortion access that the Court identified in its July 13 opinion.”
Chuang addressed the worsening pandemic in his order on Wednesday,
“The evidence establishes that since the Court granted the (prior block) on July 13, 2020, this health risk has only gotten worse,” he wrote, reiterating that “where abortion patients in the United States are disproportionately low-income and women of color, the ongoing health risks from exposure to COVID-19 are even more pronounced.”
Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, called the Trump administration’s assertions on Covid “violently out of touch with reality.”
“The Trump administration’s claim that COVID-19 is no longer a serious threat would be laughable if it weren’t so cruel,” she continued in a statement. “It’s past time the outgoing administration accept defeat—and the FDA turn its attention to a long overdue, comprehensive review of its unnecessary and harmful restrictions on this safe medication used for abortion and miscarriage care.”
CNN’s Jason Hanna, Madeline Holcombe and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.