US: Supreme Court upholds access to abortion pill

In the bitter dispute over abortion rights in the United States, the country's Supreme Court has granted access to a drug for abortions for the time being.

US: Supreme Court upholds access to abortion pill

In the bitter dispute over abortion rights in the United States, the country's Supreme Court has granted access to a drug for abortions for the time being. In its decision on Friday evening (local time), the Supreme Court rejected restrictions on access to the abortion pill mifepristone while the legal battle continues.

The decision is particularly surprising in view of the right-wing majority in the Supreme Court and a victory for the government of Democratic US President Joe Biden. However, the final word in the case has not yet been spoken as the legal battle continues.

Mifepristone a reliable drug

The decision is the first major ruling on abortion by the Supreme Court since the court overturned nearly 50 years of abortion rights in the United States almost a year ago. This decision was considered a political earthquake. In the United States, abortion rights have been the subject of heated debates time and again. Opponents have tried for decades to restrict access and largely ban abortion. This is also the case with the abortion pill mifepristone.

Mifepristone was approved in the US in 2000 and is commonly used with the drug misoprostol for pregnancy termination. However, misoprostol can also be used alone. The World Health Organization only recommends this if mifepristone is unavailable. According to the FDA, mifepristone is a reliable drug. According to US media, more than five million pregnant women have taken mifepristone in combination with misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy since approval. Mifepristone may be mailed and taken at home.

Drug can be sent by post

Mifepristone has grown in importance since national abortion laws were overturned, allowing state legislatures to legislate on whether abortion is legal. Because many conservative states have almost banned abortion or largely restricted it. For this reason, many pregnant women, to the annoyance of abortion opponents, have had the drug prescribed to them via telemedicine, for example, and had it sent by post.

Abortion opponents have therefore sued in the US state of Texas against the approval of mifepristone - they want to make access to medical abortion more difficult. In particular, the religious right and large sections of the Republican Party have been trying to curtail abortion rights in the USA for decades. A judge in Texas appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump then suspended the approval of mifepristone. This decision is considered highly unusual as mifepristone has been approved and considered safe for more than two decades.

The government of US President Biden and manufacturers took action against the verdict. An appeals court then overturned that Texas decision in part. However, it ruled that the pill should only be available and used with restrictions. The decision stipulated that mifepristone could no longer be sent by post. She also only allows the pill up to the seventh week of pregnancy - previously the drug was allowed up to the tenth week. Biden's government also took action against this verdict - so the case ended up before the Supreme Court, which has now lifted these restrictions again.

Shift to the right under Trump

Under Trump, the Supreme Court has moved significantly to the right. There are only three female judges who are considered liberal. On the other hand, there are six arch-conservative judges, some of whom are very religious, who have recently repeatedly ruled in the interests of religious plaintiffs. When the court overturned abortion rights last year, there were protests across the country. Abortions were previously permitted nationwide at least until the fetus was viable. According to surveys, a majority of the population supports the right to abortions.

Two judges now publicly voted against the Supreme Court's decision on mifepristone - Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Both have positioned themselves as opponents of abortion in the past. US President Biden, on the other hand, welcomed the court's decision, declaring, "For women across America, the stakes couldn't be higher. I will continue to fight against politically motivated attacks on women's health."