In light of the Supreme Court decision reversing the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, President Joe Biden’s administration said it will try to stop states from outlawing a drug used for medical abortion, indicating the beginning of a significant new court battle, Reuters reports.
One of the medications used for medication abortions, mifepristone, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the administration may claim in court that this preempts state regulations, meaning that federal authority supersedes any state action.
The same defense was previously used by GenBioPro Inc., a Las Vegas-based company that sells a generic version of the drug, in a case contesting Mississippi’s prohibitions on medication abortion.
In order to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling, more than a dozen states intend to outright outlaw abortion. The conservative-majority Supreme Court overturned Roe on a 5-4 vote on Friday, declaring that the U.S. Constitution does not provide a right to abortion.
States will likely encounter further challenges in implementing prohibitions on pharmaceutical abortion because it’s possible that women may still buy the pills online or in other states.
In statements made in response to the Supreme Court’s decision, Biden stated that the government will work to maintain access to medical abortion, claiming that any attempts to do so would be “wrong, radical, and out of touch with the majority of Americans.”
The remark from Attorney General Merrick Garland that “States may not restrict mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment regarding its safety and efficacy” was more direct about what the Justice Department is considering.
Long after Roe was ruled in 1973 and mifepristone was licensed for use in abortions by the FDA in 2000. Progesterone, a hormone that supports pregnancy, is blocked by the pill, commonly known as RU 486, while the other medication used, misoprostol, causes uterine contractions.
The administration’s position, according to reproductive rights specialist Greer Donley, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, “shows that they recognize the implications and are eager to seek fresh ideas.”
States placed limitations on the availability of the pill even before Roe was overruled. According to the research organization Guttmacher Institute, which supports the right to an abortion, 19 states demand that women visit a physical location to acquire the medication.