US Supreme Court rejects bid to restrict access to abortion pill mifepristone

Americans will still be able to buy an abortion pill after the US Supreme Court threw out a bid by campaign groups to restrict access to it.

The decision was made by the same court that two years ago overturned Roe v Wade - which had previously given women rights to terminate a pregnancy.

The drug - mifepristone - was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2000 for medical termination up to seven weeks into pregnancy, extended to 10 weeks in 2016.

It was ruled the plaintiffs behind the lawsuit challenging mifepristone lacked the necessary legal standing to pursue the case, which required they show they have been harmed in a way that can be traced to the FDA.

The plaintiffs wanted an end to rules introduced in 2016 and 2021 that permitted medication abortions at up to 10 weeks of pregnancy instead of seven, and for mail delivery of the drug without a woman first seeing a doctor in-person.

The suit initially had sought to reverse FDA approval of mifepristone, but that aspect was thrown out by a lower court.

Mifepristone is taken with another drug called misoprostol to perform medication abortions - now the most common method of terminating pregnancies in the US.

Read more: Why were there calls to ban abortion drug?

The FDA said that after decades of use by millions of women in the US and around the world, mifepristone has proven "extremely safe" and that studies have demonstrated that "serious adverse events are exceedingly rare".

The plaintiffs, known as the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued the FDA acted contrary to its mandate to ensure medications are safe when it eased the restrictions on mifepristone.

They also accused the administration of violating a federal law governing the actions of regulatory agencies.

US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk broadly sided with them in a 2023 decision that would have effectively pulled the pill off the market.

Read more on Sky News:
What's changed since Roe v Wade decision was overturned?

However, after the FDA appealed, the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals did not go as far as Kacsmaryk but still ruled against its move to widen access to the pill.

This decision was placed on hold pending the Supreme Court's review.

The plaintiffs said they had legal standing to sue because their member doctors would be forced to violate their consciences due to "often be called upon to treat abortion-drug complications" in emergency settings.

The Justice Department said these claims relied on an impermissibly speculative chain of events.

Following the decision, Joe Biden said in a statement: "Today's decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues.

"It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom.

"It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states."

Meanwhile, Mr Trump - speaking at a campaign event - acknowledged the issue had cost Republicans and that it is too important to ignore.

The presidential hopeful said it was his preference for the decision to be made by the people and individual states.

The mifepristone dispute is not the only abortion case the Supreme Court is due to decide during this presidential election year.

It also is expected to rule by the end of June on the legality of Idaho's strict Republican-backed abortion ban that forbids terminating a pregnancy even if necessary to protect the health of a pregnant woman facing a medical emergency.