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Supreme Court to decide this summer whether to limit abortion pill

By Jake Beardslee · December 17, 2023

In brief…

  • Supreme Court taking new abortion case on pill access; decision expected in June
  • Could limit mifepristone availability by upholding appeals ruling reversing access expansions
  • Any limits may spur push to curb misoprostol too
The Supreme Court will rule before summer on a case that could significantly curb availability of the abortion pill mifepristone.  Elvert Barnes/Wikimedia

The Supreme Court has agreed to revisit the issue of abortion access by hearing an appeal from the Biden administration regarding access to the abortion pill mifepristone. A decision is expected by June, nearly two years after the court overturned Roe v. Wade. The ruling could have major implications for abortion availability even in states where it remains legal.

Mifepristone, used with another drug to end pregnancies up to 10 weeks, accounts for about half of all U.S. abortions. In August, a federal appeals court allowed continued mifepristone sales but reversed FDA moves since 2016 easing access, including allowing telemedicine prescribing and mailing pills to patients. The Supreme Court declined to review a bid to fully revoke approval but will now weigh in on the medication’s restrictions.

The court’s decision could significantly impact abortion access and the FDA’s authority. If justices uphold the appeals ruling, access would revert to 2015 rules with a lower gestational limit, in-person visits, and other hurdles. This would disrupt care nationwide and undermine FDA power, says University of Pittsburgh law professor Greer Donley: “It opens the door to broad, wide-ranging lawsuits for any drug where there’s a politically motivated reason to try to have it regulated more strongly,” The Hill reported.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued in a court filing that allowing the appeals decision to stand would “upend the regulatory regime for mifepristone, with damaging consequences for women seeking lawful abortions and a healthcare system that relies on the availability of the drug under the current conditions of use.”