Abortion Drug Mifepristone Stays Legal for Now, Supreme Court Rules

The Supreme Court has ruled that mifepristone, a leading abortion drug, will remain legal for now as an appeal moves forward on the case that could have significant implications for reproductive rights and the power of the FDA. The court halted a decision made by a conservative judge in Texas that banned the drug as the appeal works its way through the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This is a temporary victory for the Biden administration in its fight to protect abortion access in a post-Roe America. Mifepristone, alongside misoprostol, is used in more than half of all abortions performed in the US.

The legal clash between the Biden Justice Department and the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group, over the FDA's approval of mifepristone has been closely watched. The mifepristone case is one of the most far-reaching antiabortion efforts to reach the Supreme Court since the justices overturned Roe v. Wade last June. The lawsuit started in Texas, where a conservative Trump-appointed judge issued a ruling in the case that would have revoked the FDA approval of the drug, despite it being on the market for over two decades. Attorney General Merrick Garland filed an appeal with the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which maintained the FDA's 2000 approval of mifepristone but sided with the judge's decision to undo the FDA's more recent changes that broadened access to the drug and extended its use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.

After the Fifth Circuit Court decision, the Justice Department filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court to maintain mifepristone's FDA approvals. Last Friday, Justice Samuel Alito issued an order that halted the restrictions the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals placed on the drug. While this is a victory for access, reproductive rights activists stress that this lawsuit still could have far-reaching consequences. They argue that this is another attack on abortion in the country and is politically motivated, not based on science or the law. The ongoing legal battle over mifepristone could exacerbate an already fragile public health system and further limit access to abortion care in certain states.

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