On Friday, the administration of President Joe Biden appealed a lower court decision that would restrict how the drug is administered and distributed in an effort to protect widespread access to the abortion drug mifepristone.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans made a ruling in August that prohibited telemedicine prescriptions and mail deliveries of the abortion drug mifepristone.
The Justice Department announced that it has appealed the ruling. Danco Laboratories, the company that makes the medication, also stated that it appealed on Friday.
The ruling of the 5th Circuit has been put on hold while the government appeals to the Supreme Court.
The lawsuit may jeopardize the authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a federal organization that certifies the safety of food items, medications, and medical devices. Mifepristone was given FDA approval in 2000.
The justices might consider the case during their upcoming term, which starts in October, and give a decision by the end of June 2024, if they chose to take it up.
The 5th Circuit’s ruling partially sided with the medical professionals and anti-abortion organizations who opposed mifepristone.
It did not go as far as an earlier ruling by U.S. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas, which would have effectively suspended the FDA’s clearance of mifepristone and taken it off the market.
Legal Clash Over Mifepristone
In order to put Kacsmaryk’s injunction on hold while the legal process was ongoing, the Justice Department and the pill’s producer Danco Laboratories both made emergency motions to the Supreme Court in April.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the important 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized 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.
For pharmaceutical abortions, which make up more than half of all abortions performed in the United States, mifepristone is combined with the medicine misoprostol.
The medication can also be used to treat miscarriages. According to the FDA, mifepristone is safe and effective, with bad effects being extremely rare after decades of use by millions of Americans.
Four anti-abortion doctors and anti-abortion organizations led by the Association for Hippocratic Medicine filed a lawsuit against the FDA last year.
The contestants, who are being represented by the religious liberty organization Alliance Defending Freedom, claim that the FDA improperly authorized mifepristone before removing important safety precautions on what they term a deadly medicine.
At least 14 U.S. states have outright bans on abortion in place since the Supreme Court’s ruling last year, and many more forbid it beyond a certain stage of pregnancy.