Supreme Court likely to have final say over abortion pill mifepristone, expert says

A commonly-used abortion drug is in legal limbo after conflicting rulings from two federal judges, one of them here in Texas

On Friday, April 7, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kaczmaryk in Amarillo suspended federal approval of the drug mifepristone, part of a two-pill regimen used to terminate a pregnancy in the first ten weeks. In theory, the ruling would make all sales of the drug illegal, overriding more than two decades of FDA approval.

However, at nearly the same time, U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice, another federal judge in Washington state, made nearly the opposite ruling, directing authorities in seventeen states not to make any changes that would restrict access for the drug.

Constitutional law professor Dr. Eddy Carder says now, the Supreme Court will likely have final say.

"The conflicting opinions of the two judges expedited the process by which the issue will make its way to the Supreme Court via the shadow docket," said Carder. "And the Supreme court ultimately will be compelled to address the issue with regard to the availability of the drug."


For now, the drug that the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2000 remains at least immediately available in wake of the separate rulings, says the AP.

"Immediately there's going to be no effect really on the availability of the drug. It seems. However, it could be as far as the ultimate conclusion, it could be that the drug is unapproved for use in the country," Carder said. "How long that process will require is unknown, but it will be addressed in the most expedited fashion."

The lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was also involved in the Mississippi case that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned. At the core of the lawsuit is the allegation that the FDA's initial approval of mifepristone was flawed because it did not adequately review its safety risks.

Prescriptions for abortion pills have increased substantially since the repeal of Roe v. Wade last year. The White House has vowed to fight to preserve access to them.