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Supreme Court preserves access to abortion pill mifepristone

There will be no changes to how the abortion pill mifepristone is prescribed while a case on its FDA approval moves through a lower court.
Supreme Court preserves access to abortion pill mifepristone
Posted at 6:00 PM, Apr 21, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration on Friday and will allow an abortion pill to remain on the market under its current Food and Drug Administration approval.

That means there will be no changes to how mifepristone is prescribed while the case moves through the courts.

The Supreme Court’s decision stays the previous Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision that would have placed new restrictions on the drug while the case is being heard.

The vote was 7-2, with Justice Clarence Thomas saying he would have denied the application for stays in the case. Justice Samuel Alito essentially said in his written dissent that the Court of Appeals’ decision was reasonable because the drug would have remained on the market under rules that were in place from 2000-2016. 

The FDA's approval process was originally called into question in a lawsuit by an anti-abortion rights group. District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk blocked the FDA’s approval of mifepristone following a lawsuit by an anti-abortion rights group. The group claims the FDA rushed the drug’s approval more than two decades ago and it poses health risks to those who use it. 

The Justice Department, on behalf of the Biden administration, appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually to the Supreme Court.

Government lawyers have defended the Food and Drug Administration’s decision-making process, saying the agency followed all laws when approving the drug in 2000. They note that subsequent studies have proven the safety of the drug.

Responding to the Supreme Court's decision on Friday, President Joe Biden said, "I continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs."

Mifepristone is typically prescribed with another medicine called misoprostol. The drugs were approved to end a pregnancy through 10 weeks of gestation. 

This lawsuit is being heard at a time when abortion rights are being rolled back across the country. Following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022, numerous Republican-led states have restricted access to abortions. 

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