CNA Staff, Oct 9, 2020 / 11:01 am
The US Supreme Court on Thursday refused to reverse a lower court's order preventing the FDA from requiring in-person dispensation of the abortion pill during the coronavirus pandemic.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote a dissent, in which he was joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, which focused on “the inconsistency in the Court’s rulings on COVID–19-related public safety measures,” especially regarding First Amendment rights.
The court voted 6-2 Oct. 8 to postpone considering the Trump administration's appeal that seeks a stay of an injunction that prevents the FDA from enforcing its regulation of mifepristone, the first of the two drugs taken in a medical abortion.
In July, Judge Theodore Chuang of the US District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that the FDA listing of the abortion pill regimen alongside higher-risk procedures and drugs posed an undue burden on women seeking abortions during the pandemic, because it required them to travel to a medical facility to obtain mifepristone. Chuang, and a federal circuit court which upheld his ruling in August, said that women should be able to take mifepristone without a visit to a doctor’s office.
The Supreme Court noted that the FDA “argues that, at a minimum, the injunction is overly broad in scope, given that it applies nationwide and for an indefinite duration regardless of the improving conditions in any individual State. Without indicating this Court’s views on the merits of the District Court’s order or injunction, a more comprehensive record would aid this Court’s review.”
Because of this, the court said the district court should “promptly consider a motion by the Government to dissolve, modify, or stay the injunction, including on the ground that relevant circumstances have changed,” giving it 40 days to rule after having received the government motion.
Alito wrote in his dissent that “there is no legally sound reason” for the court's refusal to rule on the injunction.
“For all practical purposes, there is little difference between what the Court has done and an express denial of the Government’s application. In both situations, the FDA rule may not be enforced, and in both situations, the Government is able to move the District Court to modify the injunction based on changed circumstances.”