U.S. Court Provides “Limited” Access To Abortion Drug

After the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals halted an order from a Texas federal judge banning the use of abortion drug mifepristone, the Supreme Court followed suit and backed up that decision.

On Friday, Samuel Alito, the justice who’s responsible for all emergency relief applications that come out of the 5th Circuit, granted the Department of Justice’s request for an administrative stay in the case. The dispute is over the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has approved mifepristone to be used as an abortion pill.

These decisions mean that, for now, the drug can continue to be used as it has been across the country while the court battles continue on in lower levels. 

If these two recent orders were not handed down, then limits on the drug including when during a pregnancy it could be taken, who is able to prescribe the drug as well as how it could be dispensed would’ve taken effect at 1 a.m. on Saturday.

The hold is now in place until next Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. The physicians and medical associations that brought this challenge about mifepristone being authorized by the FDA have until Tuesday at noon to respond in the case.

Last Friday, Danco Laboratories, which makes the drug, along with the Biden administration had requested that the high court intervene in the case to block an order that was handed down by a federal judge in Texas on April 7.

That Texas ruling halted the approval the FDA authorized back in 2000 that mifepristone could be used as an abortion drug. It also dealt with subsequent actions that the agency took that ultimately made accessing the drug easier.

Not long after the Texas judge made his ruling, the DOJ appealed it to the 5th Circuit, requesting that the decision be halted. The Appeals Court did just that late on Wednesday.

In doing so, it put a pause on part of the Texas decision that stopped the approval by the FDA of mifepristone. However, it left all other portions of that order in place that blocked the changes the FDA made starting in 2016, including tightening rules about how it could be used to terminate pregnancy in the early term.

Ever since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v Wade decision over the summer – placing the onus on states to make their own laws regarding abortion – President Joe Biden has said that his administration would work hard to protect a woman’s access to abortion.

In a statement released before the DOJ officially made their request to the Supreme Court, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said:

“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to deny in part our request for a stay pending appeal. We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.”