Supreme Court blocks rulings that impose restrictions on mifepristone

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Last Friday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily blocked lower court rulings that imposed tighter restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone.

U.S. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. Northern District of Texas suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone last week.

Then, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked that part of Kacsmaryk’s order and kept the FDA approval in place. But the appeals court temporarily reimposed tighter restrictions on how mifepristone is used and distributed, which would make it more difficult for women to access the drug. Mifepristone, used in combination with another drug called misoprostol, is the most common method to terminate a pregnancy in the U.S., accounting for about half of all abortions.

Arizona Horizon welcomed Jennifer Piatt, Research Scholar at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Deputy Director for the Network for Public Health Law, to speak more on the ruling.

What is mifepristone?

“Mifepristone is one of two drugs that are used for medication abortion. Mifepristone is the first and misoprostol is the second,” said Piatt. “Mifepristone is used to block the hormone progesterone to essentially stop the pregnancy from growing, and then Misoprostol causes contractions to evacuate the womb.”

Mifepristone ruling summary

On April 7, U.S. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk rules the FDA should pull off access to mifepristone in all of the U.S. market.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then “gets rid of some of [Kacsmaryk’s] decision but keeps some of the decision,” said Piatt. “What the Fifth Circuit said is that it’s highly likely that these challengers, the plaintiffs, have brought their claim way too late to challenge a 2000 approval over 20 years ago. But they may have not brought it too late to challenge modifications in 2016, 2019, 2021 that have made mifepristone more widely accessible.”

Jennifer Piatt, Research Scholar at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Deputy Director for the Network for Public Health Law

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