Washington: The Supreme Court is leaving women’s access to a widely used abortion pill untouched until at least Friday, while the justices consider whether to allow restrictions on the drug mifepristone to take effect.
The court is dealing with a new abortion controversy less than a year after its conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade and allowed more than a dozen states to effectively ban abortion outright.
At stake now is whether to allow restrictions on mifepristone ordered by a lower court to take effect while a legal challenge to the medication’s Food and Drug Administration approval continues.
The justices had at first given themselves a Wednesday evening deadline in a fast-moving case from Texas in which abortion opponents are seeking to roll back FDA approval of mifepristone, which is used in the most common method of abortion in the United States.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Justice Samuel Alito issued a one-sentence order giving the court more time and indicating it expects to act by Friday night. Alito, the justice in charge of handling emergency appeals from Texas, provided no explanation.
The justices are scheduled to meet for a private conference Friday, where they could talk about the issue. The additional time could be part of an effort to craft an order that has broad support among the justices. Or one or more justices might be writing a separate opinion, and asked for a couple of extra days.
The drug first won FDA approval in 2000, and conditions on its use have been loosened in recent years, including making it available by mail in states that allow access.
The Biden administration and New York-based Danco Laboratories, the maker of the drug, want the nation’s highest court to reject limits on mifepristone’s use imposed by lower courts, at least as long as the legal case makes its way through the courts. They say women who want the drug and providers who dispense it will face chaos if limits on the drug take effect. Depending on what the justices decide, that could include requiring women to take a higher dosage of the drug than the FDA says is necessary.