January 13, 2021
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday granted a request from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reinstate restrictions on mifepristone, a drug commonly referred to as the “abortion pill.”
The Court’s decision reinstates a requirement for patients to pick up the drug in person. Three lower courts had blocked the FDA’s in-person pickup requirement for mifepristone during the coronavirus pandemic, citing the potential risks of contracting COVID-19.
Writing for the majority in the 5-4 decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said the court’s task was not to decide “whether the requirements for dispensing mifepristone impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter.”
The question instead, Roberts said, was whether the lower courts “properly ordered the Food and Drug Administration to lift those established requirements because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.”
‘No sufficient basis’
Roberts wrote that he did not see “a sufficient basis” for the courts to “compel FDA to alter the regimen for medical abortion.”
Mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, was approved by the FDA in 2000 for use in medication abortions in early pregnancy. The drug is also known as RU 486. Mifepristone ends a pregnancy by blocking the action of progesterone, the hormone that supports pregnancy. Mifepristone, when used together with another medicine called misoprostol, is used to end an early pregnancy.
This is the first abortion-related decision by the Court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court in October 2020.