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Supreme Court temporarily blocks abortion pill restrictions from taking effect

A Donald Trump-appointed judge in Texas set off abortion access chaos with a power grab ruling.


The Supreme Court on Friday, with a temporary order from Justice Samuel Alito, blocked restrictions from taking effect on the commonly used abortion drug mifepristone. The order effectively put on hold, for the moment, extreme rulings from Donald Trump-appointed judges that sought to thwart abortion access.

Alito put the restrictions on hold until April 19 at 11:59 p.m. ET, while litigation continues. The Supreme Court could still allow the restrictions, including blocking mifepristone access by mail, to go into effect after further litigation. Alito handled the temporary order because he's the justice assigned to emergency matters from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from Texas, where the case was filed.

We could learn more about how the case will turn out next week, as Alito ordered the anti-abortion plaintiffs who initially brought the case to file a response in court by April 18 at noon.

Trump-appointed District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas ordered the suspension of the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of mifepristone on April 7. He paused the effective date of his order for a week while the Justice Department and mifepristone manufacturer Danco appealed.

On Wednesday, a 5th Circuit panel led by Trump-appointed judges partially blocked Kacsmaryk’s order, rejecting his suspension of FDA approval of the drug but approving some of his restrictions such as mail access to the drug. That prompted the DOJ's and Danco’s further appeals to the Supreme Court, attempting to block the narrowed order from taking effect.

The DOJ wrote in its motion, filed Friday, that the case concerned "unprecedented lower court orders countermanding FDA’s scientific judgment and unleashing regulatory chaos by suspending the existing FDA-approved conditions of use for mifepristone."

Adding to the chaos and uncertainty is a conflicting order to Kacsmaryk's issued on the same day as his, from Barack Obama-appointed Judge Thomas Rice in Washington state. Rice's ruling blocked the FDA from altering mifepristone access in the jurisdictions from that separate case, which include 17 states and the District of Columbia. Kacsmaryk's order purported to apply nationwide.