The Supreme Court has stepped in to protect access to a widely used abortion drug, blocking lower court rulings that attempted to place restrictions on the drug‘s usage.
The Court‘s Friday night move is a victory for the Biden administration and abortion rights advocates, who have been fighting to keep the drug, mifepristone, in circulation. The drug has been available since 2000 and is used by millions of women around the country.
The Supreme Court‘s brief, unsigned order did not explain why it granted the request by the Biden administration and a manufacturer of the drug to intervene. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito publicly dissented; the votes of the other justices were not disclosed.
The case is the most significant abortion–related dispute to reach the Supreme Court since the justices reversed the Roe v. Wade precedent in 2020. The decision has triggered conservative states to either ban or severely restrict the procedure.
If the dispute over medication abortion is resolved in favor of the challengers, it could make it more difficult for women to obtain an abortion, even in states that still allow it.
President Joe Biden praised the order, saying that mifepristone will remain available and approved for safe and effective use, and that Americans should “use their vote as their voice and elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v Wade.”
Erik Baptist, a lawyer for the group of doctors who brought the challenge, downplayed the order, saying it was “common practice“ for the Supreme Court to maintain the status quo.
Abortion pill manufacturers Danco Laboratories and GenBioPro also praised the order, saying it would provide continuity to providers, patients, and healthcare systems.
The Justice Department declined to comment, but Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the order was an important step in the right direction and that they remain confident the law is on their side.
The next step in the litigation will be a hearing in front of a New Orleans–based federal appeals court on May 17. Until the Supreme Court takes the case on the merits and sides with the challengers, mifepristone will remain available and approved for safe and effective use.