Crime & Justice

US Supreme Court freezes restrictions on abortion pill

Washington, Apr 21 (EFE).- The United States Supreme Court on Friday froze a lower court ruling that would have imposed a nationwide ban on sales of the abortion pill mifepristone.

By a 7-2 vote, the justices preserved the status quo regarding availability of the drug pending a final decision by the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which plans to hear oral arguments in the case on May 17.

The appellate court ruling is likely months away.

A week ago, Justice Samuel Alito – one of the two dissenters from Friday’s decision – imposed a five-day hold on a ruling that would have significantly restricted access to the drug starting at 12:01 am on April 15.

The hold was set to expire on Wednesday, but the high court extended it for two additional days.

President Joe Biden’s administration asked the high court to intervene after a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld parts of a decision by a district judge in Texas revoking the approval of mifepristone by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000.

On April 7, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who presides over the US district court in Amarillo, Texas, ruled that the FDA violated its own rules when it certified mifepristone as safe and efficacious.

Kacsmaryk suspended his decision for seven days to allow Biden’s Department of Justice to file an appeal with the 5th Circuit.

The appellate judges struck down part of the district court ruling, but let stand elements that would hinder access to mifepristone.

The 5th Circuit barred use of mifepristone after the seventh week of pregnancy – the current limit is 10 weeks – and prohibited distribution of the drug via the mail.

Biden hailed Friday’s decision.

“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,” the president said in a statement. “I continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.”

Since last summer, when the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide, the use of medications to terminate pregnancies has increased.

The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights NGO, estimates that medications were used in 54 percent of all abortions in the US in 2022.

A dozen of the 50 US states have banned abortion entirely, while others have imposed sharp restrictions on the procedure.

EFE jdg/dr

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