A federal appeals court in the U.S. has allowed partial access to the abortion drug mifepristone with new limitations on how the drug can be dispensed. The drug, which is used in most medication abortions in the United States, remains approved for use up to seven weeks of pregnancy while the case is being appealed. However, the drug was previously approved for up to 10 weeks. The ruling also states that mifepristone can no longer be sent in the mail, at least for now. The drug has been approved by the FDA since 2000 and is used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, in nearly all medication abortions in the United States. Mifepristone was initially approved for medication abortion through seven weeks of pregnancy, but in 2016, the FDA expanded that to 10 weeks.
Late last week, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk sided with anti-abortion rights groups that sued the Food and Drug Administration over its approval of the abortion pill mifepristone. He issued a ruling that would invalidate the drug’s approval beginning this Friday unless the appeals court intervenes. However, on Monday, the Department of Justice asked the Fifth Circuit for an emergency stay of Kacsmaryk’s decision while the court hears the case. The appeals court’s decision means mifepristone will continue to be at least partially available while the case plays out.
Several states led by Democratic governors have begun stockpiling abortion pills, either mifepristone or another drug, misoprostol. This comes as abortion rights advocates are concerned about the ongoing restrictions on access to abortion across the United States. States such as Massachusetts and Washington have already started stockpiling mifepristone in the event that access is disrupted. California and New York have also said their states are stockpiling tens of thousands of doses of misoprostol.
These restrictions on mifepristone are a setback for advocates of abortion rights in the US. The decision of the appeals court, however, means that the drug remains partially available while the case plays out. The efforts of Democratic governors to stockpile abortion pills are an attempt to ensure that access to abortion remains available in their states, despite the ongoing legal battles and restrictions. As this issue continues to evolve, it is important to support efforts to ensure reproductive rights and access to safe, legal abortion.