The Supreme Court announced Wednesday afternoon that it would be extending the administrative block on the restriction of access to mifepristone till Friday.
The US Supreme Court has extended till Friday its decision on restricting access to Mifepristone, a popular abortion medication, allowing it to remain in markets without restrictions for two more days. The Supreme Court had earlier ordered a block on restrictions till Wednesday evening. However, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, yesterday afternoon extended this block till 11:59 pm EST on Friday (9:30 am IST Saturday).
How the case started
The case originated from a ruling earlier in the month, by a district judge in Texas, who revoked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the drug. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryck, who was hearing a case filed by anti-abortionists, raised questions regarding the medical safety of the drug while restricting its access. However, only a while later, a judge in Washington issued a contrarian ruling, which allowed free access to the drug in 17 US states.
On the basis of these rulings, the government appealed to the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. In its subsequent ruling, the New Orleans-based court allowed the drug to remain in the market, however, it did impose certain restrictions on its access.
Last week, the US Justice Department and Danco Laboratories, the manufacturers of mifepristone, filed an urgent appeal with the Supreme Court, asking it to intervene in the matter. Last Friday, Justice Samuel Alito, ordered a pause on the ban on the restrictions for the drug and announced that the decision would be announced on Wednesday. However, yesterday the ban was extended for 2 more days, till midnight on Friday. This extension will give the court greater time to consider the matter, which has become one of the most politicized and nationally crucial debates since the overturning of Roe v Wade last year.
Roe V Wade judgment and its overturning
Before the landmark Roe v Wade judgment, abortion was banned and illegal in 30 US states and only legal under very specific situations in 20 states.
In 1973, the US Supreme Court, in a 7-2 majority, amended the Constitution and declared abortion as legal under the right to privacy. Women had the right to abort until fetal viability, that is up to 23-24 weeks of pregnancy. The landmark judgment was later upheld in Planned Parenthood v Casey in 1992.
In 2022, the Women’s Health Organization challenged the Mississippi abortion law claiming it to be regressive as it only allowed abortion until 15 weeks of pregnancy. In Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court overturned the almost 5 decades old precedent and revoked women’s constitutional right to abortion. Its verdict was written by Justice Samuel Alito.
Mifepristone and Misoprostol
Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regime, which constitutes the widely used abortion and birth control medication in the US. Mifepristone is used up to the 10th week of pregnancy to block progesterone, a natural hormone required to continue the pregnancy. Post mifepristone, one can take misoprostol to induce labor or cause an abortion.
Mifepristone was given FDA approval in 2000 for use in medical abortion. Should the Supreme Court restrict its access, then the drug may not be distributed through mail or allowed beyond 7 weeks of pregnancy. There is also the question of other abortion medication and their legality, such as GenBioPro.
The FDA has vehemently opposed the claim that the drug was given a hasty approval, stating that all due process was followed and its safety was made sure of. The parties await the Supreme courts judgment on Saturday.