The US Justice Department said Thursday that it will go to the Supreme Court to appeal restrictions imposed on a widely-used abortion pill in the latest round of an intensifying battle over reproductive rights.
The move by the administration of President Joe Biden came just hours after an appeals court blocked moves to ban mifepristone, but limited access to the drug used for more than half of the abortions in the United States.
“We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court… to protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
Speaking to reporters during Joe Biden’s visit to Dublin, Ireland, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “we believe that the law is on our side, and we will prevail.”
Late Wednesday, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said mifepristone should remain available for now, but limited access to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, down from 10.
The appeals court also said in-person visits would be necessary to obtain the pill — a requirement lifted in recent years — and blocked the medication from being sent by mail.
The 2-1 ruling by the conservative-majority federal appeals court in New Orleans, Louisiana, came after a US District Court judge in Texas overturned the Food and Drug Administration’s two-decades old approval of the drug last Friday.
The appeals court ruling was denounced by Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights and other groups seeking to maintain access to abortion.
“We are furious that yet another court would choose to jeopardize the health and futures of the millions of people who rely on mifepristone for abortion care,” said Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson.
Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said “unless the Supreme Court steps in, this decision will prevent many people from getting abortion care and force them to remain pregnant against their will.”
The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony described the latest ruling by two judges appointed by former Republican president Donald Trump as a “win.”
“The court recognized that the abortion pill is dangerous and rolled back Biden’s reckless mail-order abortion scheme,” said Susan B. Anthony state policy director Katie Daniel. “We look forward to the Supreme Court hearing this case.”
The latest standoff over women’s reproductive freedom in America comes almost a year after the conservative-dominated Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that had enshrined the constitutional right to abortion for half a century.
Mifepristone is one component of a two-drug regimen that can be used in the United States through the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
It has a long safety record, and the FDA estimates 5.6 million Americans have used it to terminate pregnancies since it was approved.
Last week’s ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, also a Trump appointee, imposing a nationwide ban on mifepristone came in response to a suit by a coalition of anti-abortion groups.
The judge, in his decision, adopted language used by abortion opponents, referring to abortion providers as “abortionists” and saying the drug was used to “kill the unborn human.”
Mr Kacsmaryk said the two-drug regimen that includes mifepristone had resulted in “thousands of adverse events suffered by women and girls,” including intense bleeding and psychological trauma.
But the FDA, researchers and the drugmaker say decades of experience have proven the medication to be safe and effective when used as indicated.
Shortly after the initial Texas decision, a judge in Washington state ruled in a separate case that access to mifepristone must be preserved.
Polls repeatedly show a clear majority of Americans support continued access to safe abortion, even as conservative groups push to limit access the procedure — or ban it outright.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)