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Supreme Court faces midnight deadline to rule on mifepristone

The countdown is on for the Supreme Court as it faces a midnight deadline to make a key ruling on an abortion pill.

Supreme Court faces midnight deadline to rule on mifepristone
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
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The U.S. Supreme Court extended its stay Wednesday in a case involving the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the abortion drug mifepristone.

But the stay is due to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 21, 2023, meaning there will be some restrictions on the pill if the court takes no action.

The Biden administration appealed to the Supreme Court after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the drug can still be prescribed, but placed some restrictions including on mailing the drug. 

Prior to the Appeals Court ruling, District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk blocked the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. The approval was called into question in a lawsuit by an anti-abortion rights group. It claims that the FDA rushed the drug’s approval more than two decades ago and that it poses health risks to those who use it. 

Mifepristone is one of two medications the FDA has approved for a medicated abortion. Mifepristone is a one-dose pill only approved for patients up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, or 70 days.

Since its approval by the FDA in 2000, mifepristone, along with another drug, misoprostol, has been used by more than 5 million women to induce abortions.

Doctors and patients wade through medication abortion 'chaos'
Doctors and patients wade through medication abortion 'chaos'

Doctors and patients wade through medication abortion 'chaos'

Doctors and patients are in limbo when it comes to medicated abortions, with doctors not knowing what to tell people coming in for appointments.

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Reactions to the delay came swiftly — from lawmakers, from the White House and from health experts.

"I think the Supreme Court is buying time," said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization Center on Global Health Law.

He told Scripps News in an interview he expects the Supreme Court knows that even with additional delays, it will have to make a decision at some point.

"Right now you have an utterly intolerable position. Not only do no millions of Americans not know if they're going to get access to an approved medication, but a court in Texas has told the FDA to do one thing, and according the state of Washington, is told it to do the exact opposite thing," he said. "Unless the Supreme Court fixes this, there's going to be legal chaos and huge public health fallout. I also think that it could lead to open hunting season on FDA with legal challenges galore. That's not where this nation needs to be. And I have to believe that the Supreme Court understands that."