Appeals Court Maintains Access of “Abortion Pill”

April 13, 2023
Photo of a judges gavel

The defendants’ motions to stay the district court’s order are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. They voted to block a Texas judge’s decision and maintain access to the abortion pill mifepristone for now, though under tighter regulation.

#Developing – See Below For Updates

Background: Last week, a Texas federal judge suspended the FDA's approval of mifepristone pending further litigation; mifepristone is a medication used (in combination with another medication) to end pregnancies. The pill was approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago, but the Texas ruling gave seven days before new regulations were set to begin. In March, the federal judge in Texas had heard oral arguments in the case which was brought by a coalition of groups and individuals who oppose abortion and specifically wanted to challenge the use of this particular pill.

Why It Matters: A federal appeals court ruled that mifepristone will remain available but with some restrictions – primarily that it can now only be used for up to seven weeks of pregnancy and cannot be distributed via mail. The Texas ruling and subsequent appeal could indicate this case will get bigger and potentially head to the Supreme Court.

Big Picture: Prescription pills, such as mifepristone, account for around half of all U.S. abortions. Abortion access in America tightened considerably with the recent reversal of Roe V. Wade; the restriction of abortion pills would restrict it further, even in states where abortion access remains.

Appeals court revives FDA approval of abortion pill mifepristone, allows some restrictions to stand (USA Today)

Appeals court preserves partial access to abortion pill, but with tighter rules (The Associated Press)

*UPDATE: April 14, 2023*

Supreme Court Briefly Preserves Broad Availability Of Abortion Pill (The New York Times)

Excerpt from The New York Times: Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued an order on Friday temporarily ensuring that a common abortion pill would remain widely available while the Supreme Court considered whether to grant the Biden administration’s emergency request to preserve the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug.

The order was meant to maintain the status quo while the justices studied the briefs and lower court rulings, and it did not forecast how the court would ultimately rule …

Justice Alito set a brisk schedule for the court’s consideration of the case. His order, an administrative stay, instructed the groups challenging the F.D.A.’s approval of the abortion drug, mifepristone, to file their brief by Tuesday at noon.

The stay itself is set to expire on Wednesday at midnight, meaning the court is very likely to act before then and could in the coming days further curtail access to abortion, even in states where it is legal.

For now, though, Justice Alito, the member of the court responsible for overseeing the appeals court whose ruling is at issue, restored the state of affairs that existed before a ruling last week by a federal judge in Texas that would have suspended the agency’s approval of the pill and severely disrupted the availability of mifepristone.

High court temporarily blocks restrictions on abortion pill (The Associated Press)

by Jenna Lee,