Supreme Court says abortion drugs must be obtained in person, not by mail

Editor’s note: This story was updated on January 15.

Washington— On Jan. 12, the Supreme Court reinstated a federal requirement that women seeking abortion-inducing drugs must do so in person, not by mail, as a federal judge had allowed last year due to the pandemic and which the High Court had cleared.

In its 6-3 order, the judges said women must follow previous Food and Drug Administration requirements that they must go in person to a doctor, hospital, or clinic to obtain Mifeprex, the brand name of mifepristone, also called RU-486, which is used to terminate pregnancies during the first 10 weeks.

FDA regulations initially required patients to receive the drug in person after signing a form acknowledging the risks associated with it.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s restoration of the FDA’s ability to enforce important and long-standing health and safety requirements related to chemical abortive drugs,” Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said. Kansas City, Kansas, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Pro-Life Activities Committee.

In a January 15 statement, he said: “The mail-order sale of mifepristone compounds the risks and trauma of abortion by encouraging women to end the lives of their children in their own bathrooms, often without no medical attention or aftercare. This dangerous, painful and emotionally dark process results in the death of innocent unborn lives and often has lasting negative effects on women.”

“The inalienable dignity of women and their unborn children deserves so much more,” he added.

Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a January 12 statement that she was “pleased that the Supreme Court of the United States recognizes the seriousness of chemical abortions and the need for the FDA to put in place protocols to protect women from life-threatening and devastating side effects.”

Catholic Church leaders have voiced their opposition to the drug since it was approved by the FDA in 2000 and in 2016 when the FDA relaxed rules for use, saying it could be administered with less visits to a doctor.

The question of how women can obtain these drugs began with a challenge to the requirements for their distribution made last year by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The group argued that in-person visits to obtain these pills during a pandemic violated the Constitution by creating a substantial barrier to women’s ability to have abortions.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland agreed, ruling last summer that maintaining the FDA requirement during the pandemic “would place a substantial obstacle in the way of women seeking medical abortion and it could delay or prevent a medical abortion and therefore might require a more invasive procedure.”

Instead, he said, the pills could be mailed out during the pandemic.

The United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit denied the FDA’s request to stay that decision, and the FDA took the case to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear it last October. The judges suggested the FDA return to the district court to ask the judge to vary or freeze its order, and on December 9 Chuang issued a new order denying the FDA’s request.

Less than a week later, the FDA returned to the Supreme Court arguing that the in-person requirement does not impose a substantial hurdle for a woman seeking an abortion.

On Jan. 12, nearly a month after the FDA’s request, the court agreed to allow the government to enforce the in-person rule for obtaining abortive drugs while the agency pursues its appeal of the court’s decision. Chuang.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote a separate opinion agreeing with the court’s decision, but emphasizing that the issue was not so much about the potential burden of the in-person requirement to obtain the drugs as about the perspective of Chuang on the impact of the pandemic on women. seeking drugs. He said the judge should not have ordered the FDA to relax its requirement.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, writing an opinion joined by Judge Elena Kagan, said, “FDA policy imposes an unnecessary, unjustifiable, irrational, and undue burden on women seeking abortions during the current pandemic.” She also said that during the pandemic, government agencies have eased restrictions on collecting other drugs in person.

A scotusblog article, which talks about the Supreme Court, said the court did not explain why it took nearly a month to respond to the FDA’s request.

He also said that while the decision “gives the FDA the go-ahead to immediately reinstate the in-person requirement, the Biden administration may choose to waive the requirement, either for the duration of the pandemic or temporarily. more permanent.

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