State leaders and abortion rights advocates praised the decision Friday by the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve access to abortion pill mifepristone while an appeal on a lawsuit challenging its approval is underway.
The high court’s ruling came after the Justice Department asked it to halt an order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that would have significantly restricted availability of the medication in many states.
As a result, mifepristone remains legal and accessible nationwide.
“Today’s stay preserves access to safe, legal medication abortion,” Attorney General William Tong said Friday. “We’re done with radical, misogynist politicians who want to micromanage our lives and bodily autonomy. I’m going to fight like hell at every single step of this case, alongside women, patients, and doctors everywhere who refuse to live in Gilead.”
Gov. Ned Lamont said decisions on reproductive health care should be made between a patient and their doctor, “without the interference of politicians or politically-motivated judges.”
“Today’s Supreme Court decision to preserve access to mifepristone is the right course for the court to take before making a monumental decision on Americans’ access to health care, particularly when Americans have been safely using this medication for decades with the support of their doctors,” he said.
“Today is a victory for those who have watched as courts and legislatures across the country chip away at their rights and freedoms,” added Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. “We want to be very clear at a time when there may be confusion — mifepristone, a safe and effective drug that has been used by more than five million patients over the last 20 years — will continue to be available indefinitely as the appeals process continues.”
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Texas released a decision saying the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone was invalid. The same day, a judge in Washington state barred the F.D.A. from curtailing the availability of the medication in states that were part of a lawsuit in that state. Connecticut is among them.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last week did not allow the Texas judge’s entire ruling to go into effect because it found that conservative groups waited too long to challenge the F.D.A.’s 2000 approval of mifepristone. But the decision placed restrictions on the drug, because the statute of limitations has not expired for regulatory changes since 2016, The Washington Post reported.
Since then, the agency approved use of the pill for up to 10 weeks of pregnancy (up from seven), allowed medical providers other than physicians to prescribe the drug, and removed the mandate that patients retrieve the pill in person. The appeals court ruling put those restrictions back in place, The Post reported.
But the Supreme Court’s decision holds off those restrictions for now. The case will continue in the 5th Circuit appeals court.
“We are extremely pleased that the Supreme Court recognized the scientific and medical facts that mifepristone is safe and effective and should remain available to all of those seeking care,” said Liz Gustafson, state director of Pro-Choice Connecticut. “Everyone deserves access to the abortion care method that is best for their circumstances, no matter where they live, who they are, or how much money they make.”
“We can exhale for now — access to medication abortion remains legal, but the danger to women’s health care is unabated,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said. “This temporary reprieve does not reverse the monstrous, misguided District Court decision that overrules two decades of medical experts’ findings that mifepristone is safe and effective. We must continue this fight with undiminished resolve.”
An attorney for the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit said he looks forward to a final ruling in the case that will “hold the F.D.A. accountable.”
“As is common practice, the Supreme Court has decided to maintain the status quo that existed prior to our lawsuit while our challenge to the F.D.A’s illegal approval of chemical abortion drugs and its removal of critical safeguards for those drugs moves forward,” said Erik Baptist, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom. “Our case seeking to put women’s health above politics continues on an expedited basis in the lower courts.”
Mifepristone is a medication that blocks progesterone, which is needed for pregnancy to continue. When used with another drug called misoprostol, it can end a pregnancy through 10 weeks gestation (70 days or less since the first day of the last menstrual period), according to the F.D.A.
“The medical evidence is overwhelming that mifepristone for early medication abortion is safe and effective, with an enviable safety record of 99% safety,” Nancy Stanwood, chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, said last week. “It has been used by more than 5 million people in the U.S. since its FDA approval in 2000 to safely end an unwanted pregnancy. Mifepristone is safer than common medications like penicillin, Tylenol, and yes, Viagra.”