The U.S. Supreme Court has chosen to keep a widely used abortive drug available nationwide, upholding a conservative appeals court’s blocking of a lower court judge’s injunction revoking approval decades-old medicine.
In a 7-2 decision Friday night, the Supreme Court granted the government’s request to stay U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk’s April 7 order blocking the sale of mifepristone nationwide. Kacsmaryk, a Donald Trump appointee, withdrew FDA approval of the drug, saying the agency “exceeded its authority” by approving the drug in 2000.
“The applications for a stay presented to Judge Alito and referred by him to the Court are granted,” the order reads.
The stay will stand pending resolution of the case by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which had blocked the part of Kacsmaryk’s ruling that would have withdrawn mifepristone’s approval entirely, but upheld its decision to reverse a 2016 policy that made the drug more readily and widely available.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Thomas did not give a reason for his position, but Alito submitted three pages explaining why he disagreed with the majority.
“Our granting of a stay of a lower court decision is a fair remedy,” Alito wrote. “It should not be given if the plaintiff has not acted fairly, and that is the situation here. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has engaged in what has become the practice of ‘leverag[ing]’ district court injunctions “as a basis” for implementing a desired policy while avoiding both necessary agency procedures and judicial review.
In a statement after Friday’s ruling, President Joe Biden vowed to continue to fight attacks on women’s health.
“I continue to defend the FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my administration will continue to defend the independent, expert authority of the FDA to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs,” he said. he declared. “The stakes couldn’t be higher for women across America. I will continue to fight political attacks on women’s health. But let’s be clear – the American people must continue to use their vote as their voice and elect a Congress that will pass legislation restoring Roe’s protections against Wade.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said in a statement:
“Today’s decision shows how dangerously flawed and abhorrent the Texas District Court’s decision was. Although this is a temporary victory, it is not the end of the fight to protect women’s health choices. Make no mistake, the extreme Republicans of MAGA will continue to pursue their national abortion ban until they impose their anti-choice agenda on all Americans. The Democrats won’t stop fighting and we will prevail.
Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents abortion opponents challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, downplayed Friday’s action, multiple news outlets reported.
“As is common practice, the Supreme Court has decided to uphold the status quo that existed prior to our trial as our challenge to the FDA’s illegal approval of chemical abortifacient drugs and its removal from essential safeguards for these drugs progresses. “said ADF lawyer Erik. Baptiste said in a statement.
The trial court’s decision in this case was not particularly surprising, as Kacsmaryk has long opposed access to abortion and indicated during his oral argument that he was inclined to accede to the request of the plaintiffs — a coalition of physicians called the Hippocratic Medicine Alliance — to revoke the FDA. drug approval.
The case has potentially far-reaching consequences that go well beyond abortion. As Law&Crime previously explained, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs had standing to sue because treating patients who had suffered side effects from mifepristone, they claimed, was “emotionally taxing.” and sometimes required them to perform procedures. — like abortions — that conflict with their personal beliefs. In the judges’ view, this amounted to sufficient injury to warrant legal action against the federal agency charged with approving the use of mifepristone in the first place.
The government appealed and on April 14, Judge Samuel Alito issued an administrative stay initially scheduled to last until Wednesday, April 19. That day, however, Alito offered himself and his colleagues on the bench some extra time, giving the judges until Friday midnight to issue a ruling.
On the day Kacsmaryk issued his ruling, a federal judge in Washington issued an order in direct conflict: US District Judge Thomas Rice, appointed by Barack Obama, ruled that the FDA could not remove mifepristone from the market and ordered the agency to retain it. available in at least 17 states and the District of Columbia. Additionally, Kacsmaryk immediately suspended its decision for seven days, at least temporarily maintaining mifepristone’s approved status while the appeal process was ongoing.
The case, Alliance Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, is widely considered the most significant abortion rights issue before the Supreme Court since its June 2022 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which pushed back decades of abortion access by overturning Roe v. Wade.
Read the Supreme Court order here.
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