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Justice Alito just issued a new order on abortion pill access

The Supreme Court now has until Friday to weigh in on access to an abortion pill, mifepristone

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The Supreme Court is seen, Wednesday, April 19, 2023.

The Supreme Court is seen, Wednesday, April 19, 2023, as an announcement about the abortion pill was awaited in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

The future of mifepristone, a pill used in combination with misoprostol to induce abortion, remained uncertain Wednesday after Justice Samuel Alito extended his previous order pausing lower court rulings that would have restricted access to the drug.

In a brief order released Wednesday afternoon, Alito gave his colleagues on the Supreme Court more time to consider whether to lengthen or end the stay he put in place last week. Now, the justices have until Friday at 11:59 p.m. EDT to issue a more definitive ruling.

Parties involved in the ongoing legal battle include the Biden administration, the lab that produces mifepristone and a group of doctors and medical groups who oppose abortion, according to The Associated Press.

What’s happening with the abortion pill?

Alito’s new ruling extends an order he issued last Friday, which temporarily put lower court rulings on hold that would have limited access to the abortion pill, as Reuters reported.

Before Alito weighed in last week, the parties involved in the lawsuit, members of the medical community and people seeking mifepristone were facing a group of conflicting decisions:

  • On April 7, a federal judge in Texas ruled that FDA approval of mifepristone should be put on hold while the original lawsuit over the drug’s safety worked its way through the courts, as The Associated Press reported at the time.
  • The same day, a different federal judge in Washington issued an opposing order, directing “U.S. authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the drug in at least 17 states where Democrats sued in an effort to protect availability,” according to The Associated Press.
  • Then, on April 12, a federal appeals court adjusted the Texas judge’s decision, determining that mifepristone “can remain on the market but only under strict conditions that prohibit its use beyond seven weeks of pregnancy and bar its distribution by mail,” Politico reported.

Alito’s old order and new order postpone the restrictions only temporarily. The Supreme Court still must decide whether his stay will remain in place as the legal battle plays out or if the restrictions put forward by the lower courts can take effect in the near future.