By / Jan 13

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted the application for stay presented by the Trump Administration and reinstated requirements for women seeking medical abortion pills to first visit a doctor’s office or clinic. The decision was split 6-3, with the liberal justices in the dissent. The majority didn’t explain their reasoning, which is common with emergency applications. However, Chief Justice John Roberts did state that he went along with the decision to dissolve the lower court’s stay out of respect for government experts. Justice Sonia Sotomayer authored the dissent, and was joined by Justice Elena Kagan. Justice Stephen G. Breyer also noted his dissent, but did not join Sotomayor’s opinion.

Last Summer, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland concluded that the “in-person requirements” for patients seeking medical abortion pills impose a “substantial obstacle” to procuring the medication and are likely unconstitutional under current laws pertaining to abortion.

In resonse to that ruling, pro-life leaders sent the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a letter urging the agency to categorize the abortion pill mifepristone, sold under the brand name Mifeprex, as an “imminent hazard to the public health.” 

Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS) and Representative Bob Latta (OH-05) led members of Congress in urging the courts to reinstate the FDA’s rules.

What is Mifeprex?

Mifeprex is the brand name for mifepristone, a drug that was formerly known as RU-486. The drug was developed in France in the 1980s and banned by the George H.W. Bush administration’s FDA in 1989. In 1993, President Bill Clinton asked the FDA to review the ban, which was lifted in 2000. Since then it has become the most common drug used for chemical abortions. 

Currently, the drug is approved by the FDA provided that it is “dispensed in certain healthcare settings, specifically, clinics, medical offices and hospitals, by or under the supervision of a certified prescriber.” In 2016, the FDA extended the time the abortion pill could be taken to 70 days into a pregnancy. The FDA approved method for chemical abortions is a two-step process involving the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. 

Mifepristone ends a pregnancy by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is needed to maintain a pregnancy. Because this hormone is blocked, the uterine lining begins to shed, removing the child (in the embryonic state) that was attached. The second step, which occurs 24 to 48 hours later, requires taking misoprostol which causes the woman to expel the child and the uterine lining in a matter similar to a miscarriage.

Chemical abortions are dangerous and harmful. Women receiving chemical abortions were also admitted to hospitals at a rate of 5.7% following the abortion, as compared with 0.4% for patients undergoing surgical abortion. The abortion pill poses a four-times higher risk of complication than surgical abortion in the first trimester.

Dr. Russell Moore has stated that the FDA has “a responsibility to protect the American people from the marketing of dangerous drugs and products. This pill is lethal to preborn children and also potentially perilous for their mothers too. The FDA should reject this drug, and we should all work to support children and their mothers in ways that affirm life, not violence.”

The ERLC is grateful for this important, life-saving decision by the Supreme Court, and will continue to advocate for life-saving policies.