Supreme Court to rule on limits to widely used abortion drug

 December 14, 2023

The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it would consider an appeal to a lower court ruling limiting the use of the widely used abortion drug mifepristone. 

Arguments in the case will likely be heard in spring, with a decision coming down in June just months before the 2024 presidential election.

Following the overturning of Roe V. Wade last year, U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of Amarillo, Texas ruled to revoke FDA approval of the drug, but that was softened on appeal.

Instead, limits were placed on how the drug can be used, including restricting it to earlier in a pregnancy, prohibiting its procurement through the mail, and requiring multiple doctor's visits to access and use it.

Issues with access to mifepristone

Those limits were rescinded until the case is decided, a decision not all justices agreed with.

Mifepristone is one of two abortion-inducing drugs that are typically used together in around half of abortions in the U.S.

The drugs can only be taken in early pregnancy, but access to mifepristone became an issue after Roe V. Wade was overturned.

Because 2016 and 2021 rulings permitted the drugs to be dispensed through the mail without a doctor's care, it was seen as a way to get around restrictions on abortion that were instituted in some states.

States like Texas and Florida could make sure doctors there didn't prescribe mifepristone and pharmacies didn't dispense it to women more than six weeks pregnant, but it was difficult to control out-of-state doctors sending it in the mail to women in those states.

Is it safe?

Abortion opponents have argued that the drug is not safe for women, as the FDA has claimed. Side effects can include heavy bleeding and bacterial infections that have in rare cases been fatal to the pregnant woman.

The drug is almost always fatal to the unborn baby, of course.

“The modest decision below merely restores the common-sense safeguards under which millions of women have taken chemical abortion drugs,” lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in support of the appeals court ruling.

The lead attorney on the Supreme Court filing is Erin Hawley, wife of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

While of course, abortion opponents and Supreme Court justices need to act according to their consciences on this life-or-death issue, it probably won't be a vote-getter for Republicans in the upcoming election cycle, based on the 2022 midterms.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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