Supreme Court protects access to abortion pill mifepristone during legal battle


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday preserved women’s access to a drug used in the most common method of abortion, rejecting lower-court restrictions while a lawsuit continues.

The justices granted emergency requests from the Biden administration and New York–based Danco Laboratories, maker of the drug, called mifepristone. They are appealing a lower-court ruling that would roll back Food and Drug Administration approval of mifepristone.

The drug has been approved for use in the U.S. since 2000 and more than 5 million people have used it. Mifepristone is used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, in more than half of all abortions in the U.S.

The court faced a self-imposed Friday night deadline to decide whether women’s access to a widely used abortion pill would remain unchanged or be restricted while a legal challenge to its Food and Drug Administration approval goes on.

The justices have been weighing arguments that allowing restrictions contained in lower-court rulings to take effect would severely disrupt the availability of the drug, mifepristone, which is used in the most common abortion method in the United States.

It has repeatedly been found to be safe and effective, and has been used by more than 5 million women in the U.S. since the FDA approved it in 2000.

The Supreme Court had initially said it would decide by Wednesday whether the restrictions could take effect while the case continues. A one-sentence order signed by Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday gave the justices two additional days, without explanation.

Abortion opponents filed suit in Texas in November, asserting that FDA’s original approval of mifepristone 23 years ago and subsequent changes were flawed.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, shown listening to a question during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017, is the lone federal judge in his north Texas district — a fact that led to speculation among critics that the abortion-pill case had landed in his courtroom via judge shopping.

Senate Judiciary Committee/AP

Further context (March 2023): Trump appointee in single-judge federal district in Texas could bar nationwide access to the abortifacient mifepristone

Also (April 2023): Access to abortion pill in limbo after competing rulings in Texas and Washington

They won a ruling on April 7 by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, revoking FDA approval of mifepristone. The judge, the lone judge in his Amarillo, Texas, federal district, gave the Biden administration and Danco a week to appeal and seek to keep his ruling on hold.

Responding to a quick appeal, two more Trump appointees on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the FDA’s original approval would stand for now. But Judges Andrew Oldham and Kurt Englehardt said most of the rest of Kacsmaryk’s ruling could take effect while the case winds through federal courts.

MarketWatch contributed.

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