Apr 11, 2023

The Competing Federal Rulings on Abortion Pills, Explained

The legal conflict means that the Supreme Court is likely to weigh in soon.

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By Hudson Crozier

On Friday, a Washington state federal judge ruled that the Food and Drug Administration may not restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone—less than an hour after a Texas judge ruled that the FDA’s approval of the drug was legally invalid. The Texas judge’s ruling is now paused while the Biden administration appeals.

What happens now? An appeals court has until this Friday to intervene in the Texas case before the ruling takes effect. If it does take effect, the Washington ruling that protects mifepristone would only apply to some states. The stakes of this legal conflict mean that the Supreme Court is likely to step in soon.

Why it matters: Data from last year found that pills are used for over half of abortions in America. After the Dobbs v. Jackson decision led to widespread restrictions on surgical abortions, much of the political battle over abortion has shifted to pills.

The stakes: If the Supreme Court strikes down FDA approval for mifepristone, it would effectively take the drug off the market. If it doesn’t, the drug would still be banned in several states. However, mifepristone isn’t the only drug that induces abortions, and President Joe Biden has directed multiple agencies to fight for abortion pill access in all states.

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