A pill used to induce abortion, mifepristone, can remain widely accessible in the United States as a legal challenge to its use plays out, the Supreme Court said Friday.
A majority of justices ruled to keep lower court rulings that would have restricted access to the abortion pill on hold. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the only noted dissents.
The new ruling significantly extends the temporary hold that was originally put in place by Alito on April 14.
The lawsuit that prompted the Supreme Court’s decision originated in Texas, where organizations that oppose abortion challenged the FDA’s approval of mifepristone.
“The groups say that the drug is dangerous and should never have been permitted to be available to American consumers — an argument sharply refuted by mainstream medical groups. They are asking the courts to order the FDA to revoke its approval of mifepristone, removing the abortion pill from the American marketplace,” The Washington Post reported.
The groups are squaring off against the FDA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, individual officials in the Biden administration and Danco Laboratories, the maker of mifepristone.
On April 7, a Texas judge handed the anti-abortion organizations a big win, ruling that mifepristone had to go off the market while the lawsuit plays out. But five days later, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scaled back that decision, deciding that the abortion pill could remain available under certain restrictions.
“People can no longer obtain the pill by mail or have it prescribed by medical professionals who are not doctors, and can use it up until seven weeks of pregnancy, instead of the current 10 weeks,” The Washington Post reported.
The Supreme Court’s decision blocks those restrictions — and the Texas judge’s full ban — from taking effect.
Mifepristone, the drug at the center of the ongoing lawsuit, is used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, to induce abortion.
“The drug has been approved for use in the U.S. since 2000,” The Associated Press reported, noting that it’s used “in more than half of all abortions.”
President Joe Biden praised the Supreme Court’s decision in a statement released Friday.
“As a result of the Supreme Court’s stay, mifepristone remains available and approved for safe and effective use while we continue this fight in the courts. I continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone,” he said, according to The Washington Post.