US appeals court rules in late-night decision abortion drug mifepristone to remain available for now News
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US appeals court rules in late-night decision abortion drug mifepristone to remain available for now

A federal appellate court in Texas ruled late Wednesday night that the abortion drug mifepristone is to remain available on a limited basis pending an ongoing legal dispute.

The ruling, handed down by Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, permits partial access to the abortion drug, albeit with new restrictions, in particular, limiting its use up to seven weeks of pregnancy and disallowing mail distribution.

This comes amid conflicting rulings, with anti-abortion rights groups challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone and 17 states, along with the District of Columbia, fighting to preserve access to the medication. On April 7, 2023, a judge in Texas blocked the FDA’s approval of mifepristone dating back to 2000, while on the same day, another judge in Washington State ordered the FDA to maintain the drug’s availability in 17 states and the District of Columbia. These conflicting rulings may require the US Supreme Court’s intervention to resolve the conflict.

The impact of these rulings on medication abortion availability remains uncertain. The FDA filed a notice of appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit after the Texas ruling, and the Supreme Court may review the cases together if they reach that level. These rulings could also have implications for the FDA’s approval of other drugs, potentially leading to legal challenges for controversial treatments.

Amid escalating tensions between pro-life advocates pushing for restricted abortion access and pro-choice defenders fighting to maintain it, the complex policy battles unfold in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 2021 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling. This decision upended the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which had previously enshrined a woman’s right to abortion under the constitutional right to privacy, legalizing it nationwide.