The US Supreme Court has upheld access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, by rejecting restrictions that were recently implemented by a lower court. The decision means that the drug can remain available while legal proceedings continue. Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk had earlier ruled to suspend the drug’s long-standing approval, saying that the FDA had erred in its scientific assessment of the drug. The case may have wide-ranging implications for abortion access in the US. Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen that accounts for more than half of all abortions in the country and has been used by more than five million American women over the past 20 years.
The Supreme Court decision will return the case to the lower 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal may end up back before the Supreme Court, which could set a significant ruling on the issue of abortion since the Roe v Wade decision was overturned last year. Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life, called the decision a “tragedy”, while pro-choice advocates welcomed the news.
The latest ruling was welcomed by medical experts and organisations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, called restrictions on mifepristone a bridge too far for the Supreme Court, stating that it would post “immeasurable” harms to the drug approval process in the US. Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden applauded the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the FDA’s independence and fight political “attacks on women’s health”. Despite Friday’s ruling, oral arguments for the case are due to begin before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in May.