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Supreme Court keeps abortion pill access through at least Friday

A Trump-appointed judge in Texas set off abortion access chaos with what one drug manufacturer called a "first-in-a-century judicial second-guessing of FDA’s scientific judgment."


The Supreme Court has again temporarily stopped extreme restrictions on the commonly used abortion pill mifepristone from taking effect, this time through Friday.

The temporary order extends a previous pause from last week that was set to expire Wednesday to 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday. Both orders were issued by Justice Samuel Alito, who issued the previous pause last week and generally handles emergency litigation from the court where this case came from.

Alito’s latest order gives the justices a couple more days to consider the matter before potentially issuing a substantive ruling, but we can’t know from this latest temporary delay how the GOP-majority court will ultimately rule.

The Justice Department warned in a legal filing Tuesday ahead of the Supreme Court’s order that allowing the restrictions to go forward "would scramble the regulatory regime governing" mifepristone, which has been used by more than 5 million women since the FDA approved the drug in 2000.

The case was prompted by unprecedented lower court rulings from Donald Trump-appointed judges. First was District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas, followed by a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel led by Trump judges. In a dubiously reasoned April 7 ruling, Kacsmaryk ordered the suspension of the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. He paused the effective date of his order for a week while the Justice Department and brand name mifepristone manufacturer Danco Laboratories appealed. The 5th Circuit panel issued its own dubious ruling that partially blocked Kacsmaryk’s order, rejecting his suspension of FDA approval but condoning 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.

They were successful in blocking that narrowed order from taking effect, at least for a few days while litigation continued, when Alito on April 14 granted a temporary administrative stay, lasting through Wednesday night.

In a filing Tuesday, Danco Laboratories, which manufactures brand name mifepristone, called Kacsmaryk’s order a “first-in-a-century judicial second-guessing of FDA’s scientific judgment” that “prompted immediate chaos and nationwide confusion.”

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.

This is a breaking news entry. Check back for updates.