By Frank Fang
Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) has said that defunding the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could be an option if the Biden administration dismisses a court ruling that suspended approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.
Gonzales, who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said House Republicans might decide to use the “power of the purse” to hold the administration accountable.
“It’s very dangerous when you have the administration, the Biden administration, coming out and saying they may not uphold a ruling,” Gonzales said during an interview for CNN’s “State of the Union” on April 9.
“As an appropriator on the House Republican side, I look at it, the House Republicans have the power of the purse.
“And if the administration wants to not lead this ruling, not live up to this ruling, then we’re going to have a problem. And it may come to a point where House Republicans on the appropriation side have to defund FDA programs that don’t make sense.”
Gonzales, the father of six children who calls himself a “prolific pro-lifer,” emphasized that it is important not to undermine court decisions.
“I think it’s important that we have to get back and allow our institutions to lead. We can’t undermine them when we don’t agree with things that are there, whether it’s on the state level,” he explained.
As an example, he pointed to how marijuana is legal in California and other places but not in Texas.
“If those are the kind of things that your community wants, then work it through your state, work it through the federal level,” he added. “But we have to uphold our institutions. It’s dangerous when we erode them.”
On April 7, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee in Texas, signed an injunction directing the FDA to stay mifepristone’s approval.
“The Court does not second-guess FDA’s decision-making lightly,” reads the judge’s decision Friday. “But here, FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns—in violation of its statutory duty—based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions.”
On the same day, President Joe Biden issued a statement saying his administration “will fight this ruling.”
“If this ruling were to stand, then there will be virtually no prescription, approved by the FDA, that would be safe from these kinds of political, ideological attacks,” Biden added.
Attorney General Merrick Garland also issued a statement saying he “strongly disagrees” with the court ruling and that the Justice Department will continue to “defend the FDA’s decision.”
The FDA appealed the court decision on Saturday, insisting that the abortion drug was “safe and effective.”
“FDA approved Mifeprex more than 20 years ago based on a comprehensive review of the scientific evidence available and determined that it was safe and effective,” the agency said in a statement. “FDA stands behind its determination.”
On Sunday, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra told CNN that “everything is on the table,” suggesting that the administration might defy the judge’s court order.
In a separate ruling on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice, an Obama appointee in Spokane, Washington, ordered the FDA not to make any changes that would restrict access to mifepristone. The ruling applied in 17 states and the District of Columbia, where Democrats sued in an effort to expand access to the abortion drug.
Kacsmaryk’s ruling has drawn criticism from many Democrats.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) issued a statement calling the ruling “appalling.”
“But this ruling wasn’t about the safety of the drug or protecting patients,” she wrote. “This was clearly about overriding the FDA’s processes and expertise to attack women’s reproductive rights. Science, not an extreme right-wing ideology, should determine which drugs are available to women seeking an abortion.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called the ruling “lawless” and warned that women in the United States “could lose access to a safe and legal medication,” according to a statement.
“I urge the Biden administration to use every legal and regulatory tool in its power to keep this drug available,” Warren stated.
However, some advocacy groups have welcomed the Texas judge’s decision.
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini called the ruling “a major step forward for women and girls whose health and safety have been jeopardized for decades by the FDA’s rushed, flawed and politicized approval of these dangerous drugs.”
CatholicVote President Brian Burch called the ruling long overdue in a statement.
“For decades the FDA has abdicated its solemn duty to protect women and girls, putting politics above health and safety,” Burch stated.
“Many peer-reviewed studies and major international studies have documented the grave dangers involved in taking these drugs,” Burch added. “It is time to hold the FDA accountable for ignoring the overwhelming body of evidence, and require them to do what is in the best interest of women and girls across the country.”