WASHINGTON (CN) — The Supreme Court on Friday stopped new restrictions on a popular abortion pill from going into effect and limiting access to the procedure nationwide.
The court's pause on lower court rulings restricting the use of mifepristone will stay in place while the appeal proceeds. Should the case make its way back up to the high court, the stay will expire if the court declines a certiorari grant. Justice Clarence Thomas would not have granted the pause. Justice Samuel Alito dissented from the grants.
“At present, the applicants are not entitled to a stay because they have not shown that they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the interim,” Alito wrote.
Alito chastised the court for granting relief without considering the full merits of the case. He cited prior criticisms his colleagues — Justices Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett — offered of the court’s use of its authority in this manner. While claiming to disagree with Kagan and Barrett’s assertions at the time, Alito says if those arguments were correct in those cases, they should also be held in this case.
“I did not agree with these criticisms at the time, but if they were warranted in the cases in which they were made, they are emphatically true here,” Alito wrote. “As narrowed by the Court of Appeals, the stay that would apply if we failed to broaden it would not remove mifepristone from the market.”
Alito said his dissent has no connection to how he might rule on the case in the future.
“Contrary to the impression that may be held by many, that disposition would not express any view on the merits of the question whether the FDA acted lawfully in any of its actions regarding mifepristone,” Alito wrote. “Rather, it would simply refuse to take a step that has not been shown as necessary to avoid the threat of any real harm during the presumably short period at issue.”
The battle over mifepristone — one of two drugs currently used in medication abortions — landed at the high court after two lower courts attempted to limit access to the drug nationwide. Both the Biden administration and mifepristone maker Danco Laboratories asked the justices for emergency relief to prevent what they viewed as a crisis in the heath care system.
“The lower courts’ orders interfere with women’s ability to make that intensely personal medical decision for themselves,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a brief before the court.
Justice Samuel Alito temporarily halted — and then extended — a pause on the rulings to allow the full court to consider the case.
President Joe Biden released a statement following the court’s ruling Friday afternoon. Biden said the ruling will prevent the FDA’s authority from being undermined and prevent risks to women’s health.
“As a result of the Supreme Court’s stay, mifepristone remains available and approved for safe and effective use while we continue this fight in the courts,” Biden said. “I continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone, and my Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom said the Supreme Court’s decision to pause the rulings was common practice and it would continue to fight against mifepristone’s approval.
“As is common practice, the Supreme Court has decided to maintain the status quo that existed prior to our lawsuit while our challenge to the FDA’s illegal approval of chemical abortion drugs and its removal of critical safeguards for those drugs moves forward,” Erik Baptist, an attorney with ADF, said in a statement. “Our case seeking to put women’s health above politics continues on an expedited basis in the lower courts.”