Drug News

U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on Abortion Pill Access

In a decision that could significantly impact reproductive rights in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging restrictions on the abortion pill, mifepristone. The move comes after the Court, in 2022, withdrew its recognition of a constitutional right to abortion, and is set to become a focal point of the upcoming presidential election year.

The case revolves around an appeal by President Joe Biden’s administration against the August decision of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This decision sought to limit the delivery and distribution of mifepristone by prohibiting telemedicine prescriptions and mail shipments of the drug. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear an appeal from the drug’s manufacturer, Danco Laboratories.

The 5th Circuit’s decision, currently on hold, is part of a legal challenge in Texas brought by anti-abortion groups and doctors. The justices are expected to hear arguments in the coming months and issue a decision by the end of June, placing it amidst a heated presidential race.

Mifepristone, used in combination with misoprostol, facilitates medication abortion, which constitutes over half of all U.S. abortions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which approved mifepristone in 2000, has consistently affirmed its safety and efficacy over decades of use by millions of American women, with adverse effects being exceedingly rare.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre emphasized the administration’s commitment to defending women’s access to reproductive health care, condemning what she referred to as “extreme and dangerous abortion bans” imposed by various states.

The Justice Department, in its filing to the Supreme Court, argued that allowing the 5th Circuit’s restrictions to take effect would have “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.”

This case raises concerns about the authority of the FDA, the federal agency responsible for ensuring the safety of food products, drugs, and medical devices. Erin Hawley, a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative religious rights group representing the plaintiffs, urged the court to uphold the 5th Circuit’s decision, claiming that the FDA had harmed women’s health.

The 5th Circuit’s decision, while not as far-reaching as a prior ruling that would have suspended FDA approval of mifepristone, has rolled back recent FDA actions that increased accessibility. This includes a 2021 decision during the Biden administration allowing remote prescriptions and mail delivery, as well as a 2016 decision under former President Barack Obama to extend the use of mifepristone up to 10 weeks of pregnancy from seven.

President Biden’s administration is taking a stand to defend mifepristone amid a wave of abortion bans and restrictions enacted by Republican-led states since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision in June 2022.

As the 2024 presidential race intensifies, abortion rights emerge as a pivotal and divisive issue, with President Biden advocating for reproductive rights against the backdrop of a conservative majority in the Supreme Court appointed by former President Donald Trump. The decision will not only shape the future of medication abortion but could have broader implications for the landscape of reproductive rights in the United States. SEE: Signs Your Medical Abortion Didn’t Work


Joan David-Leonhard

Joan David Leonhard is a recent Pharm.D graduate with a strong passion for the pharmaceutical industry and a particular interest in pharmaceutical media and communication. Her brief internship experience includes roles in pharmacy where she built strong patient-pharmacist relationships and a pharmaceutical media internship where she actively contributed to drug information articles, blog posts, social media engagement, and various media projects.
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