The Supreme Court announced this week that it will take up an appeal regarding access to abortion pills.
The challenge, brought by the Biden administration, is an appeal of a ruling from a lower court that put restrictions in place for people to gain access to the abortion pill.
The decision, made in August by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said that the Food and Drug Administration acted illegally as it lowered the safety standards about how the abortion pill mifepristone was prescribed.
In addition to the appeal from the Biden administration, the high court announced it will also hear an appeal filed by Danco Laboratories that is connected to the other case. That company is the manufacturer of mifepristone.
When the FDA initially approved mifepristone, many safety standards were connected to how the pill was administered. It included requiring prescriptions to be given in person, as well as having the pill administered while being medically supervised.
Those initial restrictions also only approved the drug’s use through the first seven weeks of pregnancy.
Those standards were loosed in 2016 under the Obama administration, which allowed the drug to be administered through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Then, in 2021, the Biden administration cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the reason why safety standards for the drug were lowered even further. Women who wanted to get a chemical abortion no longer had to have an in-office appointment in order to get it.
This allowed them to have a telemedicine appointment with a doctor, who could then prescribe the medication and send it to them in the mail.
These rollbacks in safety standards were challenged in court by pro-life advocates and a group of concerned doctors from Texas. They argued the safety standards are essential for the drug to be used properly.
They won support in the 5th Circuit in the summer, with the court finding the FDA acted against the law when it lowered the standards – both under the Obama administration in 2016 and again under the Biden administration two years ago.
The Biden administration – and the manufacturer of mifepristone – both appealed that decision, hoping that the Supreme Court would take up their case. Not surprisingly, the justices did agree to take on the appeal.
While the case is pending in front of the Supreme Court, the decision that the 5th Circuit made is on hold. Oral arguments in front of the high court are expected to be held in the next few months, and the justices are expected to issue their decision before June is over.
The usage of mifepristone, and abortion in general, has been a hot topic over the past year, ever since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. In doing so, it removed federal abortion protections and allowed individual states to make their own laws regarding the practice.
That has resulted in many new laws being written and many legal challenges being filed as it all gets figured out.