MASSACHUSETTS — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday stopped a lower court’s restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone from taking effect, a win for the Biden administration and for women in Massachusetts who can continue to access the drug that his been in use for more than two decades.
The justices granted emergency requests from the Biden administration and New York-based Danco Laboratories, the maker of the drug to reject limits on mifepristone’s use imposed by lower courts, at least as long as the legal case makes it way through the courts.
The drug has been approved for use in the U.S. since 2000 and more than 5 million people have used it. Mifepristone is used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, in more than half of all abortions in the U.S.
The underlying issue in the case is whether the Food and Drug Administration went through the proper procedures in approving the drug. Although the court maintained FDA approval of mifepristone for now, it’s likely not the last time the court will weigh in on the issue.
Essentially, the court said, medical abortions are a state issue.
State and federal elected officials in Massachusetts hailed the ruling as a "victory."
"[Friday's] Supreme Court order is a victory for patients and providers across the country – a victory for science, medicine and the law. However, we never should have gotten to this point. Mifepristone has been used safely and effectively for decades and it is the gold standard in medication abortion," Gov. Maura Healey said.
After the Texas ruling, Healey began stockpiling mifepristone to continue access for residents amid uncertainty in the courts.
House Minority Whip U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, said the turmoil over abortion medication is linked to a wider battle over abortion access.
"MAGA extremists are weaponizing our courts to achieve a national abortion ban. As this battle continues, House Democrats will use every tool at our disposal to protect Americans’ right to make their own health care decisions, including our fight to enshrine abortion access into law with the Women’s Health Protection Act. We are on the side of the American people and on the side of freedom," she said Friday night.
The case before the high court stems from a Texas judge’s April 7 ruling. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered a hold on federal approval of mifepristone, the drug that is used to carry out a majority of U.S. abortions and was approved by the FDA in 2000. Kacsmaryk’s decision overruled decades of scientific approval.
Less than a week later, a federal appeals court modified the ruling so that mifepristone would remain available while the case continues, but with limits. The appeals court said that the drug can’t be mailed or dispensed as a generic and that patients who seek it need to make three in-person visits with a doctor, among other things.
The generic version of mifepristone makes up two-thirds of the supply in the United States, its manufacturer, Las Vegas-based GenBioPro Inc., wrote in a court filing that underscored the perils of allowing the restrictions to be put into effect.
The court also said the drug should only be approved through seven weeks of pregnancy for now, even though the FDA since 2016 has endorsed its use through 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Complicating the situation, a ruling by a federal judge in Washington ordered the FDA to preserve access to mifepristone in 17 Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia that filed a separate lawsuit.
The challenge to mifepristone is the first abortion controversy to reach the nation’s highest court since its conservative majority struck down Roe v. Wade last June. States have since put together a patchwork of abortion laws, a dozen of them enacting laws so restrictive that abortions are effectively banned.
Even in states where abortion is legal and available, providers would have to limit services to in-clinic procedural abortion if mifepristone became unavailable or switch to a misoprostol-only abortion regime, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The drug can be used alone to terminate pregnancies, but medical experts have said it is not as effective as the standard two-pill regimen of mifepristone and misoprostol.
Also, patients whose providers prescribe abortion pills during clinic visits or via telehealth would no longer be able to pick them up from participating pharmacies or in the mail.
The impact would be far greater in 10 states — Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington — where women’ access would be even more limited if providers don’t offer a regimen of misoprostol alone, according to Guttmacher.
Original story HERE.