(CN) — The Supreme Court on Thursday decided to continue allowing women seeking medication abortions to procure abortion pills through the mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an unsigned 5-page order released Thursday evening, the high court upheld a federal judge's decision to block a federal requirement that women pick up such pills in person. The Trump administration had requested the court reinstate it.
"Without indicating this Court’s views on the merits of the District Court’s order or injunction, a more comprehensive record would aid this Court’s review," the order states.
The court effectively punts the issue back to the federal court, asking the district judge to reexamine the topic and issue a ruling within 40 days.
Justices Samuel Alito Jr. and Clarence Thomas dissented, with Alito saying the court was inconsistent in rulings related to the pandemic and that he would have granted the Trump administration's request.
"Under the approach recently taken by the Court in cases involving restrictions on First Amendment rights, the proper disposition of the Government’s stay application should be clear: grant," Alito wrote. "But the Court is not willing to do that. Nor is it willing to deny the application. I see no reason for refusing to rule."
Alito said the court's failure to issue a ruling in the six weeks since the administration's request effectively served as a denial.
“For all practical purposes, there is little difference between what the court has done and an express denial of the government’s application,” he wrote.
Medication abortions are allowed in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and roughly 60% of abortions performed during that time use drugs rather than surgery.
A federal judge in July ruled that health care providers can mail the drug mifepristone to their patients. Mifepristone is used in combination with the drug misoprostol to end pregnancy.
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