The US Supreme Court on Friday blocked restrictions imposed by lower courts on an abortion pill widely used in the country.
Judges on the highest US court have responded to emergency requests from the government of President Joe Biden and pharmaceutical company Danco Laboratories, which makes mifepristone, which appealed against a lower court decision to reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug’s use. (FDA), the nation’s drug regulatory agency.
The decision is a victory for the Biden administration, which advocates wide access to the pill, in the latest legal battle over reproductive rights in the United States.
“The risks could not be greater for women across America. I will continue to fight politically motivated attacks on women’s health,” Biden said in a statement following the ruling. “But let’s be clear – the American people must continue to use their vote as their voice, and elect a Congress that passes a law restoring Roe v. Wade protections.”
The president was referring to the Supreme Court precedent, established in 1973, which guaranteed Americans the right to an abortion. In June 2022, the Supreme Court itself overturned Roe v. Wade and concluded that it was up to state governments to decide whether or not to restrict access to the practice in their territory.
Since then, 12 US states have enacted outright bans on abortion, while many others have tightened the practice by banning abortion after a certain period of pregnancy.
What is the case now?
Friday’s Supreme Court ruling stems from a decision by a US District Court judge in Texas that would severely limit access to mifepristone even in some states where abortion remains legal.
On April 8, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled that the authorization for the use of the abortion pill be withdrawn.
The Biden administration and the Danco laboratory then appealed the decision, arguing that mifepristone could be unavailable to Americans for months if restrictions imposed by the district court were to take effect.
In response, a Louisiana state appeals court ruled that the pill would only be available until the first seven weeks of pregnancy, three weeks less than previously, and that it must be picked up in person at pharmacies.
The Justice Department then took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the restriction would have serious consequences for women and the pharmaceutical industry.
Now, the highest court blockade is expected to leave access to mifepristone unchanged through at least 2024, as the legal battle rages on, including a possible Supreme Court appeal.
What is mifepristone?
The pill mifepristone was approved for use in the United States in 2000 and has been used by more than 5 million people in the country. The FDA considers the drug safe and effective, as demonstrated over decades of use, and its adverse effects are extremely rare.
Mifepristone is used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, in more than half of all abortions in the United States. The drug also has other uses, such as controlling miscarriages.