NARAL abortion rights activists pose for a photo outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2023.

(Photo: NARAL Pro-Choice America/Twitter)

Advocates Warn Abortion Pill Access Still at 'Severe Risk' Despite Supreme Court Reprieve

"This stay is the bare minimum," said one reproductive rights campaigner. "The imminent threat to access to mifepristone and abortion care remains."

"Mifepristone remains safe, effective, and AVAILABLE."

However, access to medication abortion remains at "severe risk." That was the message Friday from reproductive rights advocates after the United States Supreme Court temporarily blocked a ruling by a Texas federal judge that would effectively end access to abortion pills.

Justice Samuel Alito issued a short order on the high court's "shadow docket" staying until next Wednesday last week's decision by U.S. 5th Circuit Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump who ruled that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 2000 approval of mifepristone—one of two drugs typically used in tandem to induce abortion—was illegal.

Alito, who wrote the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization—the ruling that canceled half a century of federal abortion rights—is assigned to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"While medication abortion remains accessible for now, this case should never have been heard in the first place," NARAL Pro-Choice America president Minni Timmaraju said in a statement. "Nothing about the rulings from the lower courts' Trump-appointed judges had any basis in medical science–both are steeped in reckless disinformation and total disregard for the law. As this case continues, safe and effective medication abortion in all 50 states is at severe risk."

Jenny Ma, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said Friday that "mifepristone will remain available as it has for the last 23 years, for at least five more days."

"This week has created whiplash for healthcare providers and patients—and this order provides cold comfort for a brief few days," Ma added. "But this case is far from over. The Supreme Court must take action next week to stop the chaos unleashed by these extreme decisions."

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court temporarily blocked the part of Kacsmaryk's ruling that would have invalidated the FDA's approval of mifepristone. Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, called Wednesday's ruling "a wolf in sheep's clothing."

"The court rightly found that some claims were filed too late," Northup added, "but that should not distract from the radical assault on the FDA's decision-making authority and the fact that it will wreak havoc on the provision of medication abortion if it stands."

The full Supreme Court next week is expected to consider granting a longer stay of Kacsmaryk's decision.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, healthcare providers "have been thrown into chaos repeatedly this week, with the accessibility of mifepristone volleying between two federal district courts and a circuit court."

After Friday's stay, NARAL Pro-Choice America asserted:

The people hurt most by these bans and restrictions are those who already face barriers to accessing abortion care—including women; Black, Latina/x, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous people; those working to make ends meet; the LGBTQ+ community; immigrants; young people; those living in rural communities; people with disabilities, and other historically oppressed communities.

Rachel O'Leary Carmona, executive director at Women's March, said in a statement that "had the Supreme Court refused to act today, the restrictions imposed by the 5th Circuit would have taken effect across the nation. This stay is the bare minimum. The imminent threat to access to mifepristone and abortion care remains."

"Mifepristone has been safe and effective and proven that way for more than 20 years," O'Leary Carmona continued. "There is no doubt about the FDA's authority to regulate it, or that the drug helps save lives."

"This case should be a clarion call to defenders of democracy to take action," she asserted. "If we don't act now, our courts and democracy itself will be eroded beyond repair."

"That's why Women's March is turning out in D.C. and cities across the country this weekend," she added, referring to nationwide protests planned for Saturday. "Together, we can protect the right to safe, legal abortion care and ensure that everyone has the freedom to make decisions about their own bodies and lives."

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