Supreme Court Expected to Decide on Abortion Pill Access: What to Know
WASHINGTON—The future of commonly used abortion drugs is at the center of a legal battle before the Supreme Court for the second time in a year to consider major efforts to severely limit access to abortion.
By Friday night, the court will grant the Biden administration’s urgent request to keep the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the pill mifepristone after a lower court has restricted the drug’s availability while an appeal is pending. We are going to decide whether
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. has suspended the lower court’s ruling, but the freeze is set to end at midnight. That means judges are likely to make a decision by then, but they may extend deadlines or take no action.
When judges overturned Roe v. Wade in June, a majority of conservatives said the political sector, not the courts, should make decisions about abortion policy. But the issue will soon make its way to the Supreme Court, a case with potentially wide-ranging consequences for states where abortion is legal and even for the FDA’s regulators of other drugs.
Here’s what could happen next:
what is at stake?
At issue is the availability of mifepristone. Mifepristone is part of his two-drug regimen, which now accounts for more than half of abortions in the United States. In the United States, more than 5 million women use mifepristone to terminate pregnancies, and dozens of other countries have approved the use of mifepristone.
A federal judge has questioned the steps the FDA has taken to expand distribution of the drug, and the New Orleans Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said last week that it would allow the drug to stay put. nevertheless imposed significant barriers to access. at the market.
That decision essentially sets the clock back to 2016, when the FDA added a set of guidelines to ease access to tablets. increase.
Eliminating the mail option would have serious consequences, experts say. Patients would have to miss work, pay for travel to clinics, and endure the stigma of appearing in public to seek an abortion.
The lawsuit could also pave the way for all sorts of challenges to the FDA’s approval of the drug. Legal experts say health care providers anywhere in the country may be able to challenge government policies that may affect patients.
what happens next?
When the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene, the application was assigned to Justice Alito, who oversees the 5th Circuit Court.Published by Judge Alito order We temporarily made the pills widely available last Friday. The order was extended for two more days on Wednesday.
The court said Wednesday it would give it more time to consider the pill’s availability, suggesting there may be disagreements among judges.
A judge will likely decide whether to grant the administration’s request, and there are several options. Ensure full access to mifepristone. It imposes significant restrictions, but does not go far enough to significantly reduce drug availability. Or suspend the pills from the market altogether, as a federal judge in Texas did in the original lawsuit.
Whatever the judge does in the meantime, the case will likely continue in the Court of Appeals. But the Supreme Court could take the unusual step of jumping over the Court of Appeals and hearing the case itself right away.
If the Supreme Court decides not to comply with the Biden administration’s demands, the Fifth Circuit’s decision will remain in effect.
how did we get here
The controversy goes back more than 20 years to a lawsuit by a governing group of medical organizations and a handful of anti-abortion doctors who challenged the FDA’s approval of the pill.
The case was filed in the Amarillo Division of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas and was before one federal judge. Matthew J. Kaksmalik is Trump’s appointee, a longtime abortion opponent.
Plaintiffs allege that the pill was unsafe and that the agency’s approval process was flawed. Serious complications are rare, and he cites a series of studies showing that less than 1% of patients require hospitalization.
In his preliminary judgment, Judge Kacsmaryk said the Food and Drug Administration improperly approved the drug. However, he gave the agency one week to seek urgent relief before his ruling took effect.
The Biden administration quickly appealed, and a split panel of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said mifepristone could remain available until the case clears the court. said.
But in addition to banning the pills from being mailed, the commission blocked health care providers other than doctors from prescribing them.
What about the case in Washington state?
Second abortion drug lawsuit progresses in federal court in Washington after 17 state Democratic attorneys general and the District of Columbia file lawsuits challenging new FDA restrictions on access to mifepristone is.
Less than an hour after Judge Kacsmaryk issued his ruling, Judge Thomas O. Rice of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington announced the availability of mifepristone in 17 Obama-appointed states and the District of Columbia. I stopped the agency from suppressing sexuality. Although his order did not affect the entire country, the states in that lawsuit represent the majority of states where abortion is still legal.
Legal experts say the direct conflict between the Washington lawsuit and the Fifth Circuit’s decision to block certain parts of the FDA’s rule on abortion drugs has allowed the Supreme Court to expedite the merits of the controversy. He said it could be more likely to be dealt with.
Adam Liptak contributed to the report.