Supreme Court Set to Decide on Access to Abortion Pill
. The Supreme Court has to decide by Friday whether to keep women's access to the abortion pill unchanged while a legal challenge to its FDA approval is resolved.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) - The Supreme Court has set a Friday night deadline for deciding whether the access of women to a commonly used abortion pill would remain unchanged or restricted as a legal challenge against its Food and Drug Administration approval continues.
The Justices are considering arguments that the restrictions in lower court rulings would seriously disrupt the availability of mifepristone which is the most commonly used abortion method in America.
Since FDA approval in 2000, it has been used by over 5 million American women.
The Supreme Court initially stated that it would decide on Wednesday if the restrictions can be in effect while the case is still ongoing. Justice Samuel Alito signed a one-sentence ruling on Wednesday that gave the justices an extra two days without any explanation.
Justices will meet in a closed-door meeting on Friday to discuss the matter. This extra time may be needed to draft an order that is supported by all the justices. Or, one or more justices may be drafting a separate opinion and have asked for an extra couple of days.
The abortion opponents' challenge to mifepristone is the first abortion dispute to reach the highest court in the country since the conservative majority of the court overturned Roe V. Wade ten months ago, allowing more than 12 states to ban abortions outright.
Alito stated in his majority opinion that one of the reasons for overturning Roe is to remove federal court from the abortion battle. He wrote that it was time to return the abortion issue to the elected representatives of the people and to obey the Constitution.
Even with their victory in court, abortion opponents have returned to the federal court with a target new: medication abortions. These account for more than half of abortions performed in the United States.
Mifepristone and misoprostol can be taken by women who want to terminate their pregnancy in the first ten weeks of pregnancy without invasive surgery. Over the years, the FDA has relaxed the restrictions on mifepristone use. It now allows it to be sent via mail in states where access is allowed.
In November, the abortion opponents in Texas filed a lawsuit claiming that FDA's approval of mifepristone in its original form 23 years ago as well as subsequent changes was flawed.
On April 7, they won a decision by U.S. district judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (an appointee to former President Donald Trump) revoking FDA approval for mifepristone. The judge gave the Biden Administration and New York's Danco Laboratories (the maker of mifepristone) a week to appeal his ruling and try to put it on hold.
Two more Trump appointees to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals responded quickly to an appeal. The FDA's initial approval will stand, according to the Circuit Court of Appeals. Judges Andrew Oldham, Kurt Englehardt and others said that the majority of Kacsmaryk’s ruling would be in effect until the federal court case is resolved.
The FDA's 2016 changes, including the extension of safe mifepristone use from seven weeks to 10 weeks during pregnancy, would be effectively nullified by their ruling. The court also ruled that generic mifepristone cannot be sent or dispensed and patients must make three visits to a doctor in person if they want it. The FDA may also require women to take higher doses of the drug.
Danco and the administration have warned that chaos would result if these restrictions were to take place while the case is still pending. A federal judge in Washington could add to confusion by ordering the FDA to maintain access to mifepristone in 17 Democratic-led States and the District of Columbia who filed a separate suit.
The Biden administration said that the FDA is in an unsustainable situation because of the conflicting rulings.
A new legal twist could cause even more problems. GenBioPro, the company that makes the generic form of mifepristone filed a suit on Wednesday to prevent the FDA from taking its drug off the market in the event the Supreme Court does not intervene.
For the time being, the Supreme Court will only be asked to block lower court rulings until the case is over. The administration and Danco do have a backup argument in case the court does not agree. They want the court to hear arguments, decide the case and take action by early summer.
Rarely does the court take such a step without at least one appellate court having thoroughly examined all legal issues.
New Orleans' 5th Circuit has already ordered an accelerated hearing schedule, with arguments scheduled for May 17.