Biden Administration Asks Supreme Court to Review Medication Abortion Case

The case could lead to mifepristone, a pill used in most abortion care, being severely restricted in every state despite decades-long strong safety record.

September 8, 2023 7:00 pm

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice and Danco Laboratories, LLC today asked the Supreme Court to review Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, a case abortion opponents have sought to use to take mifepristone — a medication that is used in most abortions in the country — off the shelves nationwide as part of a campaign to ban abortion in every state.

Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that would have devastating effects on the availability of abortion in every state by reinstating old restrictions on people’s ability to access mifepristone that the FDA has found were unnecessary and hampered people’s ability to get the care they need. For example, the Fifth Circuit’s decision would prohibit people from receiving mifepristone in the mail and instead require them to travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, just to pick up the medication. That ruling is on hold because the Supreme Court issued a stay earlier this year pending further review from the high court. If the Supreme Court rejects the case, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling will take effect; but if the court takes the case, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling will remain blocked until justices finish their review.

In response to DOJ’s filing, Jennifer Dalven, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project, issued the following statement:

“Abortion opponents have once again put our ability to access abortion care back in the Supreme Court’s hands. Make no mistake: Extremists have attempted to use the courts to try to push through a nationwide ban on a safe medication that is used in most abortions in this country. This case represents a dangerous next step in anti-abortion extremists’ plan to turn back the clock on medical science and push care out of reach, in every state in the country.. And the impacts of this case don’t stop with abortion: Allowing extremists to use junk science to revoke approval of a drug would also threaten the research and innovation of other essential medications. The Supreme Court should not let this effort to jeopardize essential health care and wreak havoc on the drug innovation process stand.”

For 23 years, mifepristone has offered an exceedingly safe and effective, FDA-approved means of ending a pregnancy, with study after study confirming its safety, efficacy, and its critical role in abortion and miscarriage care. The Fifth Circuit’s ruling would undermine access to abortion care across the country and disproportionately harm people who already face severe health disparities and barriers to accessing health care — including people of color, people struggling to make ends meet, young people, and people living in rural areas.

The case challenges the approval of mifepristone and seeks to impose outdated unnecessary requirements on its use by distorting science and medicine, and does so in a manner that would not only severely limit access to abortion but would undermine drug innovation and development for all kinds of essential medications. In fact, this case is opposed by a broad swath of groups — including pharmaceutical companies, medical experts, and former FDA officials, as well as more than 20 patient advocacy groups like The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society, which filed a brief outlining the catastrophic effects of the decision on patients.

An overview of the case can be found here.

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