Report: Supreme Court Temporarily Pauses Controversial Abortion Pill Ruling

According to reports, the Supreme Court granted a brief pause on a ruling from a federal court that restricts access to the drug mifepristone, which is used in medical abortion pills.

Justice Samuel Alito granted a short order on the court’s emergency “shadow docket,” which will keep the status quo in place until midnight on Wednesday, at the earliest, as the emergency request for a stay is considered by the full Supreme Court.

The Hill reports:

After the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday night essentially rolled the clock back to 2016 in imposing new limits on access to medication abortion, the Justice Department and the manufacturer of the brand name version of the pill separately asked the Court to temporarily allow full access to the drug, or to quickly schedule briefing and oral arguments to review the case before the court’s term ends this summer.

The appeals court on Wednesday ruled 2-1 that mifepristone may remain on the market as the federal government’s appeal of a decision from Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas moves forward. 

The appellate court scheduled oral arguments on the appeal for May 17.

Last week, Kacsmaryk suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 23 year-old approval of mifepristone. The appeals court put that part of his ruling on hold, but left in place another part of the ruling that blocked steps FDA has taken since 2016 to ease access to mifepristone. 

Those changes include increasing the gestational age of when mifepristone can be used to up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, allowing the medication to be mailed to patients, allowing providers other than physicians to prescribe the drug and approving a generic version.

The changes were set to take effect at 1 a.m. on Saturday, however, that has been pushed back with the Supreme Court’s intervention.

A Washington judge also ordered the FDA to leave the current mifepristone prescribing and dispensing rules alone, in a separate lawsuit, for more than a dozen blue states and D.C.

Judge Thomas Rice said the FDA was prohibited from “altering the status quo” in those states, “irrespective” of what the Fifth Circuit appeals court said.

According to legal experts, the conflict in rulings made it likely for the Supreme Court to intervene.


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