Joe Biden on Friday praised the Supreme Court’s decision to preserve access to the abortion pill mifepristone and vowed to keep fighting for women’s rights – describing the pro-life cases as ‘politically-driven attacks on women’s health’.
The case was brought before the Supreme Court after a federal judge in Texas on April 7 ruled that FDA approval of the drug was not legal. Hours later, a judge in Washington state made the opposite ruling, setting the stage for a Supreme Court decision.
On Friday they voted 7-2 to continue allowing women to access the drug, which was approved by the FDA over 20 years ago and is used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
‘As a result of the Supreme Court’s stay, mifepristone remains available and approved for safe and effective use while we continue this fight in the courts,’ said Biden.
‘I continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.’
Joe Biden is seen on Friday at a White House event. He said he was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, and vowed to keep on fighting for women’s access to healthcare
Abortion pill mifepristone will not be banned immediately, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday evening
The Supreme Court decided on Friday that the popular abortion pill mifepristone can remain widely available
Biden warned that the fight was not over, and urged Americans to use their vote to choose pro-choice candidates.
‘The stakes could not be higher for women across America,’ he said.
‘I will continue to fight politically-driven 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 who will pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v Wade.’
Kamala Harris, who frequently serves as the White House’s most high-profile pro-choice envoy, tweeted: ‘One does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree the government should not be telling a woman what to do with their own body.’
Josh Shapiro, the governor of Pennsylvania, tweeted that his state was fighting to protect access to abortion.
Many states had taken to stockpiling mifepristone ahead of a possible ban.
‘Abortion is legal in Pennsylvania — and that includes abortion using mifepristone,’ he tweeted.
‘The Supreme Court’s decision tonight is a relief, but we know we have a long road ahead.
‘As long as I serve the people of Pennsylvania, I will always protect your freedom to choose.’
The decision was sparked by the April 7 ruling of Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, who found that the FDA exceeded its authority when it approved the drug back in 2000.
Kacsmaryk’s order was partially blocked by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, though that court imposed restrictions that would prevent mifepristone from being sent to patients by mail.
The Biden administration and Danco Labs, the manufacturer of mifepristone, warned of possible wide-ranging consequences if the FDA’s scientists were overruled by politicians and judges.
‘If allowed to take effect, the lower courts’ orders would thwart FDA’s scientific judgment and undermine widespread reliance in a healthcare system that assumes the availability of mifepristone as an alternative to more burdensome and invasive surgical abortions,’ Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the Supreme Court in a filing this week.
Alliance Defending Freedom, representing opponents to the abortion pill, countered the administration’s concerns amounted to a ‘sky-is-falling-argument.’
‘If this litigation involved any other drug, there would not even be a debate as to whether this Court should intervene mid-litigation stream with extraordinary relief,’ their attorneys wrote in a filing to the court.
The case has divided the nation, with more than 150 Republican lawmakers supporting the conservative plaintiffs.
Democrats and leading medical associations, on the other hand, have pushed for mifepristone’s continued availability.
The original stay expired on Wednesday but Justice Samuel Alito extended it until Friday at midnight.
The justices met for a private conference Friday, where they could talk about the issue.
Since then more than a dozen states have banned abortion outright and several others have imposed heavy restrictions.
Staff with the group, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, Kristin Turner, of San Francisco, left, Lauren Handy, of Washington, and Caroline Smith, of Washington, right, demonstrate against abortion pills outside of the Supreme Court
A new CBS News poll last week found that nearly two-thirds of the country wants mifepristone to remain available amid a fierce debate on abortion taking place throughout the country.
Abortion rights is expected to be one of the dominant issues in the 2024 presidential election.
In Texas abortion opponents filed a suit in November, arguing that the Food and Drug Administration’s original approval of mifepristone 23 years ago and subsequent changes were flawed.
They won a ruling on April 7 by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, revoking FDA approval of mifepristone. The judge gave the Biden administration and New York-based Danco Laboratories, mifepristone’s maker, a week to appeal and seek to keep his ruling on hold.
Responding to a quick appeal, two more Trump appointees on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the FDA’s original approval would stand for now.
But Judges Andrew Oldham and Kurt Englehardt said most of the rest of Kacsmaryk’s ruling could take effect while the case winds through federal courts.
Their ruling would effectively nullify changes made by the FDA starting in 2016, including extending from seven to 10 weeks of pregnancy when mifepristone can be safely used.
The court also said that the drug cannot be mailed or dispensed as a generic and that patients who seek it need to make three in-person visits with a doctor. Women also might be required to take a higher dosage of the drug than the FDA says is necessary.
The administration and Danco have said that chaos will result if those restrictions take effect while the case proceeds. Potentially adding to the confusion, a federal judge in Washington has ordered the FDA to preserve access to mifepristone under the current rules in 17 Democratic-led states and the District of Columbia that filed a separate lawsuit.
Medical groups point out mifepristone has been used by millions of women over the past 23 years with a low complication rate.
Common drug side effects with mifepristone include cramping, bleeding, nausea, headache and diarrhea.
In rare cases, women can experience excess bleeding that requires a surgical procedure to stop.
The mifepristone case is the first abortion case the nine justices are hearing since the conservative majority overturned Roe v Wade
More than 5.6 million women in the U.S. had used the drug as of June 2022, according to the FDA.
In that period, the agency received 4,200 reports of complications in women, or less than one tenth of 1% of women who took the drug.
For now, the Supreme Court is only being asked to block the lower-court rulings through the end of the legal case.
But the administration and Danco have a fallback argument if the court doesn’t agree.
They are asking the court to take up the challenge to mifepristone, hear arguments and decide the case by early summer.
The court only rarely takes such a step before at least one appeals court has thoroughly examined the legal issues involved.
The New Orleans-based 5th circuit already has ordered an accelerated schedule for hearing the case, with arguments set for May 17.