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The US Supreme Court extends the block on abortion pills until Friday

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By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday extended by two days a temporary freeze on limits set by lower courts on access to the abortion pill mifepristone in a challenge by anti-abortion groups to approve it drug federal.

The decision to hold the issue gives the judges a little more time to consider requests by the administration of President Joe Biden and pillmaker Danco Laboratories to block an April 7 preliminary injunction issued by the U.S. district judge. United Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas which would severely limit the availability of mifepristone as the litigation progresses.

Alito’s order extended the pause on the dispute through Friday at 11:59 PM EDT (0359 GMT on Saturday). He had earlier suspended the lower court’s rulings until late Wednesday.

The Supreme Court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

The administration is trying to defend mifepristone in the face of growing abortion bans and restrictions enacted by Republican-led states since the Supreme Court in June 2022 struck down the landmark Roe v. Wade’s 1973 legalization of the procedure nationwide. Alito wrote that sentence.

The White House is poised for a lengthy legal battle over the issue, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“We are clearly keeping a close eye on this. … We are prepared for whatever outcome the Supreme Court may issue,” said Jean-Pierre.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US agency that approves the safety of food, drug, and medical device products, approved mifepristone in 2000. The current case could undermine federal drug safety regulatory authority.

“We will continue to support the FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone,” added Jean-Pierre. “…And we will continue to support the independent expert authority of the FDA to review, approve and regulate a broad range of prescription drugs.”

Mifepristone is used in combination with another drug called misoprostol to perform medical abortions, which account for more than half of all abortions in the United States.

The administration and Danco told the judges in their filings that mifepristone could be unavailable for months if the restrictions take effect.

On April 12 the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals based in New Orleans refused to block the curbs ordered by Kacsmaryk. The 5th Circuit halted part of Kacsmaryk’s order that would have suspended the FDA’s approval of the drug and effectively pulled it from the market.

The restrictions, if enacted, would reverse actions the FDA took in recent years to ease access to mifepristone after confirming the pill’s safety and efficacy.

These actions include in 2021 allowing mifepristone to be distributed by mail and in 2016 approving its use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy instead of seven weeks, reducing the required dosage and reducing the number of in-person doctor visits from three to one.

Current drug labels for mifepristone would need to be adjusted to account for reinstated limits on its use, a process the Justice Department and Danco have previously said could take months, complicating access to the pill.

The restrictions will also suspend approval of the generic version of the pill made by GenBioPro Inc, which accounts for two-thirds of the mifepristone used in the US for medical abortions.

Nevada-based GenBioPro filed a lawsuit on Wednesday naming the FDA as a defendant seeking to ensure it can continue to sell its pill amid ongoing legal challenges. GenBioPro has named the FDA as a defendant so it can ask a court to order the agency to keep the drug on the market.

RockedBuzz via Reuters/Ipsos public opinion polls show little support for recent measures to further limit access to abortion.

A majority of Americans — about 68%, including 46% of Republicans — oppose Kacsmaryk’s decision to cancel mifepristone’s FDA approval. About 56% of respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of the Supreme Court.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Nandita Bose, Brendan Pierson and Susan Heavey; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)