Health | Supreme Court unanimously secures access to widely used abortion drugs

By MARK SHERMAN (Associated Press)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously preserved access to a drug that’s utilized in almost two thirds of all abortions within the US last 12 months, within the court's first abortion decision since conservative judges Roe v. Wade overturned two years ago.

The nine judges decided The abortion Opponents didn’t have the fitting to sue against the approval of the drug by the American health authority FDA. Mifepristoneand the FDA's subsequent actions to extend access to the drug. The case threatened to limit access to mifepristone across the country, even in states where abortion continues to be legal.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was a part of the bulk that overturned Roe, wrote on behalf of the court on Thursday that “federal courts are the wrong forum to address plaintiffs' concerns about FDA's actions.”

In 14 states, abortion is banned at any stage of pregnancy, and in three others it’s banned after about six weeks of pregnancy, often even before the girl realizes she is pregnant.

President Joe Biden praised the choice but signaled that Democrats will proceed to push hard for abortion ahead of the November election. “It does not change the fact that a woman's right to the care she needs is at risk, if not impossible, in many states,” Biden said in an announcement.

And the Supreme Court is currently considering one other abortion case that concerns whether a federal law on emergency treatment in hospitals ignores state abortion bans in rare emergency cases where the health of a pregnant patient is seriously in danger.

More than 6 million people have used mifepristone since 2000. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone and prepares the uterus for the contraction-inducing effects of a second drug, misoprostol. The two-drug regimen was used to terminate a pregnancy as much as 10 weeks gestation.

Doctors have stated that if mifepristone becomes unavailable or too difficult to acquire, they’d switch to using misoprostol alone, which is barely less effective at terminating pregnancies.

Biden's administration and drugmakers had warned that siding with anti-abortion groups within the case could undermine the FDA's drug approval process beyond the abortion context by asking judges to second-guess the agency's scientific judgments. The Democratic administration and New York-based Danco Laboratories, which makes mifepristone, argued that The drug is one in every of the safest the FDA has ever approved it.

The decision “secures access to a drug that has been used safely and effectively for decades,” Danco spokeswoman Abigail Long said in an announcement.

The plaintiffs within the mifepristone case, anti-abortion activists and their organizations, argued in court filings that the FDA's 2016 and 2021 decisions to loosen restrictions on obtaining the drug were unreasonable and “put the health of women across the country at risk.”

Kavanaugh acknowledged that opponents had “serious legal, moral, ideological and political objections to abortion on demand and to the FDA's lax regulation of mifepristone.”

Federal law already protects doctors from being forced to perform abortions or administer other treatments that violate their beliefs, Kavanaugh wrote. “Plaintiffs have not identified any cases since mifepristone was approved in 2000 in which a physician, despite conscientious objections, was compelled to perform an abortion or administer another abortion-related treatment that violated the physician's conscience,” he wrote.

Ultimately, Kavanaugh said, anti-abortion activists have turned to the mistaken forum and will as an alternative focus their energies on getting lawmakers and regulators to make changes.

These comments identified the risks the election in 2024 and the likelihood that an FDA commissioner appointed by Republican Donald Trump might consider restricting access to mifepristone if he wins the White House.

Abortion rights advocates mostly breathed a sigh of relief after the choice, but echoed Biden's sentiments regarding the impact of the choice two years ago.

“Ultimately, this ruling is not a 'victory' for abortion – it simply maintains the status quo, which is a dire public health crisis that has led 14 states to criminalize abortion,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in an announcement.

The mifepristone trial began five months after the Supreme Court overturned the Roe decision. Abortion opponents first won a comprehensive ruling from U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryka Trump nominee in Texas that might have revoked the drug's approval entirely. The fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left the FDA's original approval of mifepristone in place. However, it might reverse changes regulators made in 2016 and 2021 that had relaxed some conditions for administering the drug.

The Supreme Court initially stayed the appeals court's amended ruling after which agreed to listen to the case. Justices Samuel Alito, the writer of the choice overturning Roe, and Clarence Thomas would have allowed some restrictions throughout the hearing of the case, but they too joined the court's opinion on Thursday.

The push to limit the usage of abortion pills is unlikely to finish with the Supreme Court's decision, said the lawyer who represented anti-abortion activists and their organizations within the case.

The ruling that the doctors didn’t have the fitting to sue leaves the way in which open for lawsuits from other states, including three other states that Kacsmaryk had previously allowed to affix the case, said Erin Hawley, an attorney with the group Alliance Defending Freedom.

Hawley said she expects Idaho, Kansas and Missouri to proceed the lawsuit originally filed in Texas.

Kansas Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach claimed in an announcement that states “have a right to sue that doctors lacked” and confirmed that he would pursue the case in Kacsmaryk's court.


Associated Press author Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.


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