The Supreme Court blocked a ruling on Friday from a federal judge in Texas who last week determined that the Food and Drug Administration’s decades-old approval of an abortion medication should be halted – a temporary move to give the justices time to weigh the issue.
The Justice Department, along with the drug manufacturer, asked the high court to step in on Friday morning after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit temporarily pressed pause on the federal judge’s decision earlier this week, but chose not to block the rollback of some recent regulations making the drug more accessible.
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The medication, called Mifepristone, is the first of two used in a series to terminate early-stage pregnancies that’s been FDA-approved since 2000. But the agency has taken steps in recent years to expand access to the pill, like extending the medication’s usage from seven weeks of pregnancy to 10 and doing away with in-person dispensing requirements.
After midnight on Friday, those policies that have helped the medication to become the most commonly used method of abortion in recent years would have been rolled back without Supreme Court intervention.
Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the opinion last year in the case overturning the right to an abortion and who handles appeals from the 5th Circuit, granted the request to temporarily block the ruling from taking effect in its entirety on Friday. Responses to the request from DOJ and the drug manufacturer are due by noon on Tuesday, and the emergency stay is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday.
The emergency application marks the first abortion-related case to reach the high court since the justices overturned Roe v. Wade. But experts say the decision to grant an emergency stay is not necessarily indicative of how the justices will ultimately rule.