U.S. Supreme Court halts restrictions on abortion pill access

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has temporarily halted any changes to the access of abortion medication mifepristone until Wednesday at midnight. This move comes after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas suspended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of mifepristone. The Texas ruling, set to take effect on Friday at midnight, faced conflict in 17 states and Washington, D.C., where a separate ruling prevented any changes in access to mifepristone.

However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans had partially blocked the Texas district court’s nationwide ruling by allowing mifepristone to stay on the market. This would have required doctors to prescribe and administer the medication under guidelines that were in place before 2016. The federal government and Danco Laboratories rejected this decision and appealed to the Supreme Court on Friday morning.

GenBioPro, the maker of the generic abortion pill, questioned the multi-jurisdictional decisions and stated that about two-thirds of all medication abortions in the country use their generic version of the abortion pill. The previous prescribing instructions for medication abortion, a two-dose regimen that includes misoprostol, would have reduced the ceiling for use from 10 weeks gestation to seven weeks. It would have required only doctors to prescribe and administer it, as opposed to other healthcare providers with licenses to prescribe pharmaceuticals. It would have required patients to attend three in-person visits, banned telehealth, and ended dispensation of the medication by mail.

The one-page order from Alito will block, for now, the Texas ruling and will allow parties to file responses to the application before Tuesday, April 18, 2023, by 12 p.m. NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmaraju expressed concern over the case and said, “safe and effective medication abortion in all 50 states is at severe risk.” On the other hand, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Erin Hawley expressed confidence in explaining why the FDA has not met its heavy burden to pause the parts of the district court’s decision that restore the critical safeguards for women and girls that were unlawfully removed by the FDA.

As of now, medication abortion remains legal, but the case concerning mifepristone raises serious questions about the judicial legitimacy and efficacy of nationwide injunctions and the impact of these decisions on women’s healthcare.

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