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Update on Mifepristone Access

April 18, 2023

Check here for updates on the evolving legal situation over mifepristone: 

Latest:

The Supreme Court announced that it will decide this term whether to limit access to mifepristone, a medication used in more than half of all abortions in the United States, returning the polarizing issue to the high court for the first time since the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade last year. The Biden administration and the manufacturer of mifepristone have asked the justices to overturn a lower-court ruling that would make it more difficult to obtain the widely used medication. Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 26 — further elevating the issue of abortion during the 2024 campaign season. The justices will review a ruling from the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that said the Food and Drug Administration failed to follow proper procedures when it began loosening some regulations for the pill, like allowing it to be mailed directly to patients. The panel won’t consider a separate challenge to the FDA’s initial approval of mifepristone in 2000. That means that whatever the Supreme Court decides will not remove the medication from the market but could make it harder to access.

Background: 

  • The Texas court ruled to ban mifepristone on April 7, taking away the FDA’s authority to regulate the safety of medications. The judge paused the decision for seven days to allow for appeals.
  • Meanwhile, a federal judge in Washington state ordered the FDA to continue to make mifepristone available in the 17 states and District of Columbia that sued to protect access.
  • The Court of Appeals decided on April 12 to keep mifepristone on the market while an expedited appeal plays out, but with restrictions—the drug can no longer be dispensed through the mail or later in pregnancy.
  • On April 14, the Supreme Court intervened to pause these restrictions and temporarily preserve access to mifepristone. This intervention expires on Wednesday, April 19th. This deadline has been extended to Friday, April 21.
  • The Supreme Court ruled on April 21 that mifepristone could remain on the market while the case plays out in a lower court. The appeals court has oral arguments on the case on May 17. Whether mail-order access to mifepristone will be preserved may be a key issue for the appeals court.
  • A federal appeals court ruled on August 16 that mifepristone should remain legal in the United States but with significant restrictions on patients’ access to it. The restrictions would prevent mifepristone from being mailed to patients, require in-person doctor visits, and reduce the window in which it could be prescribed.
  • Mifepristone will remain available for now under existing regulations while the litigation continues, in accordance with a Supreme Court order this spring.

 

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