Planned Parenthood has warned that access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, is “still under threat” following the U.S. Supreme Court‘s decision to protect the availability of the pill pending litigation in the lower courts.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Alexis McGill Johnson welcomed the court’s decision in a statement on Friday but expressed ongoing concern about challenges to the pill’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.
The Supreme Court issued a brief, unsigned order on Friday granting an emergency stay of Texas District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling where he found that the FDA “never” had the authority to approve the use of mifepristone.
“We are relieved that access to mifepristone will remain protected while this meritless case proceeds,” McGill Johnson’s statement said. “We can take a breath, but we are not losing our vigilance. Anti-abortion politicians and their allies will not stop until abortion is banned nationwide. Medication abortion is very much still under threat — as is abortion and access to other sexual and reproductive health care.”
“While mifepristone’s approval remains intact and it stays on the market for now, patients and health care providers shouldn’t be at the mercy of the court system,” the statement went on. “Planned Parenthood will continue to fight so that everyone can make their own decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures.”
The stay relates to a high-stakes abortion case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine et al v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration et al, which could ultimately see mifepristone pulled from the market nationwide if the challengers are successful.
Planned Parenthood also criticized a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit after they altered Kacsmaryk’s initial order, allowing mifepristone to stay on the market but effectively prohibiting its use past the seventh week of pregnancy and barring its distribution by mail, according to analysis from law firm Shipman & Goodwin LLP.
In a statement on Friday, Planned Parenthood said the Fifth Circuit’s order was “still extreme, and will have catastrophic consequences on access to mifepristone across the country.”
Supreme Court Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas indicated that they would have denied the stay and Alito authored a brief dissent explaining his position.
“As narrowed by the Court of Appeals, the stay that would apply if we failed to broaden it would not remove mifepristone from the market,” Alito wrote. “It would simply restore the circumstances that existed (and that the Government defended) from 2000 to 2016 under three Presidential administrations.”
President Joe Biden‘s administration and Danco, which manufactures the brand version of mifepristone, Mifeprex, had appealed to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay following the decision by the Fifth Circuit judges.
While Planned Parenthood and the Biden administration welcomed the decision, those bringing the challenge to FDA approval of the mifepristone were critical of the move.
Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Erik Baptist, the lead attorney representing the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine et al, said in a statement shared with Newsweek Friday evening that the Supreme Court had “decided to maintain the status quo.”
“Our case seeking to put women’s health above politics continues on an expedited basis in the lower courts,” Baptist said.
“The FDA must answer for the damage it has caused to the health of countless women and girls and the rule of law by failing to study how dangerous the chemical abortion drug regimen is and unlawfully removing every meaningful safeguard, even allowing for mail-order abortions. We look forward to a final outcome in this case that will hold the FDA accountable,” Baptist added.
Newsweek has reached out to the FDA via email for comment.
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