In this photo illustration, packages of Mifepristone tablets are displayed at a family planning clinic on April 13, 2023 in Rockville, Maryland.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
The abortion pill distributor Danco Laboratories on Friday asked the Supreme Court to block an order that threatens access to mifepristone.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals late Wednesday blocked U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s order suspending the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone.
But the appeals court voted 2-1 to temporarily reimpose restrictions on mifepristone, which will significantly limit access to the drug, including in states where abortion is legal. Judges Kurt Engelhardt and Andrew Oldham, who were appointed by former President Donald Trump, voted for the restrictions.
“Allowing the Fifth Circuit’s opinion to stand eviscerates the sovereign authority of States that wish to expand and protect access to medication abortion in their jurisdictions,” Jessica Ellsworth, the attorney for Danco Laboratories, told Justice Samuel Alito.
The appeals court judges temporarily blocked mail delivery of mifepristone, re-imposed doctor visits on patients, and shortened the length of time patients can take the pill to the seventh week of pregnancy, down from 10 weeks before.
Although the 5th Circuit kept the FDA’s approval of mifepristone in place, Danco’s attorneys said the company won’t be able to distribute mifepristone unless the agency takes a series of regulatory actions to implement the appeals court’s order.
“The direct consequence of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling is that FDA must effectuate a series of extensive approvals to implement the Fifth Circuit’s rollback. Without those approvals, Danco cannot legally market and distribute mifepristone,” Ellsworth wrote.
The national legal landscape surrounding mifepristone has become messy over the past week after Kacsmaryk in the U.S. Northern District of Texas and Judge Thomas Rice of the U.S. Eastern District of Washington issued conflicting orders last Friday. The Supreme Court will likely decide the legal status of the drug moving forward.
While Kacsmaryk issued a sweeping order against mifepristone, Rice barred the FDA from taking any action that limits the availability of the medication in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Rice reiterated on Thursday that the Texas and 5th Circuit orders restricting access to mifepristone do not apply in the states that sued in Washington state to protect the drug.
Danco’s attorneys said the conflicting rulings have created an “untenable limbo” for the company, providers, women, and the health-care system which are “trying to navigate these uncharted waters.”
Rice’s order applies to Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington and Washington D.C.