Justice Alito issues stay of lower court's decision on popular abortion drug

April 15, 2023

A Texas-based district court's ruling that sought to ban the approval of mifepristone, a popular abortion drug, was just overridden by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, according to the Washington Examiner.

The district court provided an extended timeframe as far as allowing the Biden administration to argue against keeping the medication available.

However, Alito's ruling stalled the district court's ruling, setting up the issue for a full SCOTUS battle reportedly as soon as next week.

The medication has become increasingly popular, especially in states that took strict anti-abortion actions after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year.

What happened?

The Examiner explained:

A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit issued an unpublished order this week upholding parts of district court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s nationwide injunction while striking down his broad suspension of the Food and Drug Administration's 2000 approval of mifepristone.

The manufacturer of the drug, along with the Biden administration, filed an emergency appeal, which led to Alito's intervention, as he oversees matters stemming from the Louisiana-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

The company that produces the drug said in its filings that the lower court's ruling on the drug "irreparably harm Danco, which will be unable to both conduct its business nationwide and comply with its legal obligations under the FDCA nationwide."

The Examiner added:

The legal conflict ensued when Kacsmaryk issued a broad ruling earlier this month in favor of abortion opponents that blocked the FDA's 2000 approval of the drug and changes the agency made in the 2010s to make the drug more accessible.

Erin Hawley, senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that represents the anti-abortion plaintiffs, voiced confidence that the Supreme Court will will come down on their side.

"We look forward to explaining why the FDA has not met its heavy burden to pause the parts of the district court’s decision that restore the critical safeguards for women and girls that were unlawfully removed by the FDA," Hawley said.

What's the drug?

Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is a synthetic steroid medication that acts as a progesterone receptor antagonist. It was developed in the 1980s and has since been widely used for two main purposes: medical abortion and the management of certain gynecological disorders, such as Cushing's syndrome and endometriosis.

Mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is essential for maintaining a pregnancy. As a result, the uterine lining breaks down, and the cervix softens, leading to the expulsion of the pregnancy tissue.

In the context of medical abortion, mifepristone is typically administered in combination with another medication called misoprostol.

Only time will tell what the high court ultimately decides, but it will certain be a hot-button topic for the coming weeks.

 

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