The abortion tablet mifepristone remains to be restricted in some states
In this photo illustration, packs of mifepristone tablets are on display at a family planning clinic in Rockville, Maryland on April 13, 2023.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
The abortion pill mifepristone is either banned or restricted to varying degrees in 27 states, despite a Supreme Court decision that – for now – upholds Food and Drug Administration rules allowing easy access to the drug.
The Supreme Court, acting on an emergency basis, last week blocked orders from lower federal courts that had placed severe restrictions on mifepristone even in some states where abortion is legal.
The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit against the FDA by a coalition of anti-abortion doctors. This group wants to force the agency to take mifepristone off the market entirely. The Biden administration is resisting these efforts.
The US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is now scheduled to hear the case on May 17.
The side that loses in the Court of Appeals will certainly ask the Supreme Court to take over the case to make a final decision on the legality of FDA rules.
FDA rules, upheld by the Supreme Court on Friday, allow women to obtain a mifepristone prescription through a telemedicine appointment and receive the drug in the mail.
Patients were previously required by the FDA to receive mifepristone in person from a healthcare provider or take the drug under their supervision.
While the Supreme Court decision maintains access to mifepristone, at least temporarily, in states that support wide access to abortion, it will have less or no impact than the Supreme Court in conservative states that have banned the procedure since last summer half a century repealed federal constitutional rights to abortion.
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Mifepristone will be largely unavailable in 13 states that have outright banned abortion.
Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that supports access to abortion.
All of these states have exceptions that allow abortion when the woman’s life is in danger.
And Idaho, West Virginia, and North Dakota have exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest, although in North Dakota that exception only applies up to the sixth week of pregnancy.
Fourteen other states have restrictions on mifepristone that go beyond FDA regulations temporarily upheld by the Supreme Court.
These states require women to be given birth control pills by a doctor.
These states are: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Utah.
Florida, Georgia and Ohio ban abortions six weeks before many women know they are pregnant.
Mifepristone is FDA approved to terminate early pregnancy up to 10 weeks gestation.
Federal lawsuits are pending in North Carolina and West Virginia aimed at overturning those states’ mifepristone restrictions.