US Supreme Court maintains widespread access to abortion medication
US Supreme Court maintains widespread access to abortion medication

Washinton: The administration of President Joe Biden won a victory on Friday as it defended broad access to the drug in the most recent bitter legal conflict over reproductive rights in the United States. The US Supreme Court prevented new restrictions on an abortion pill that had been imposed by lower courts.

A preliminary injunction issued by US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas on April 7 was put on hold after the Justices granted urgent requests from the Justice Department and the pill's manufacturer Danco Laboratories. Mifepristone's accessibility would be significantly constrained by the judge's ruling while the federal regulatory approval of the drug is being challenged in court by anti-abortion groups.

"Mifepristone remains available and approved for safe and effective use as a result of the Supreme Court's stay, while we continue this fight in the courts," Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

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"For women in America, the stakes could not be higher. I'll keep defending women's health against political assaults, Biden continued.

The decision was opposed publicly by conservative justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. In a succinct opinion, Justice Alito stated that the administration and Danco "are not entitled to a stay because they have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the interim."

Mifepristone was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a US government body that certifies the safety of food, drugs, and medical devices. The current case might undermine the federal government's ability to regulate drug safety.

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Since the Supreme Court overturned the important 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalised the procedure nationwide, in June 2022, Republican-led states have enacted an increasing number of abortion bans and restrictions. The Biden administration is attempting to defend mifepristone in the face of these laws. It was written by Alito.

More than half of all abortions performed in the US are medication abortions, which involve the administration of mifepristone along with the drug misoprostol. The medication can also be used for other purposes, such as miscarriage management.

In November, four anti-abortion doctors and anti-abortion organisations led by the recently established Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine filed a lawsuit against the FDA. The plaintiffs assert that the agency approved the drug using an illegal procedure because they believe it to be dangerous.

Mifepristone has been used by millions of Americans for decades, and the FDA has determined that it is safe and effective, noting that side effects are extremely uncommon.

If the restrictions had been permitted to go into effect, the FDA's recent efforts to make it simpler to obtain mifepristone after establishing the drug's safety and effectiveness would have been undone. These actions include approving its use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy instead of seven weeks, lowering the dosage needed, and reducing the number of in-person doctor visits from three to one in 2021 and 2016.

The Justice Department and Danco had stated that it could have taken months to change the current mifepristone drug labels to reflect the reinstated usage restrictions.

The restrictions would have also prevented GenBioPro Inc.'s generic version of the pill, which makes up two-thirds of the mifepristone used for medication abortions in the United States, from receiving approval. GenBioPro, a Nevada-based company, filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in an effort to maintain its ability to market its drug despite ongoing legal issues.

Before the US Senate confirmed Kacsmaryk to a lifetime appointment as a federal judge in 2019, the former Christian legal activist had a long history of opposing abortion.

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Since the Supreme Court's ruling last year, 12 US states have outright bans in place, and many more forbid abortions after a certain point in a pregnancy. The most recent action by Republicans was taken in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law on April 13 that outlaws the majority of abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

In contrast to an order issued on April 7 in a different case from Washington state, Kacsmaryk's decision required the FDA to maintain mifepristone availability in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

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