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What is Mifepristone? US Supreme Court rules to maintain access to the abortion pill

The medication has become a lifeline for many women seeking to terminate pregnancies, and the decision ensures that it will remain accessible.

FILE PHOTO: A patient prepares to take Mifepristone, the first medication in a medical abortion, at Alamo Women's Clinic in Carbondale, Illinois, U.S., April 20, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
Evelyn HocksteinREUTERS

The US Supreme Court has ruled to maintain access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, in a significant victory for reproductive rights advocates.

Mifepristone is a pill used in medication abortions, which account for over 60% of all US abortions. It is part of a two-drug regimen that terminates pregnancies through the 10th week of gestation. The availability of mifepristone is crucial, especially in light of the court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, which led to a wave of new restrictions on abortion in conservative states.

The medication has become a lifeline for many women seeking to terminate pregnancies, and the Supreme Court’s decision ensures that it will remain accessible to those who need it.

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the FDA’s regulation of mifepristone is a significant setback for the anti-abortion movement, which had sought to restrict access to the drug. The court’s ruling was unanimous, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh authoring the opinion.

How does the pill work?

Mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone, preparing the uterus to respond to the contraction-causing effect of a second drug, misoprostol. This combination has been widely used and recognised as a safe and essential medication for terminating pregnancies.

The FDA has approved mifepristone for use in medication abortions, and its availability has been expanded through various regulatory actions, including allowing it to be obtained via mail and administered by non-physician healthcare providers.

Reactions to the verdict

The ruling is seen as a major victory for reproductive rights advocates, who had feared that the court’s conservative majority would restrict access to the medication.

“Let’s be clear: women’s health remains under attack,” said Secretary Xavier Becerra, the nation’s top health official. “The overturning of Roe v. Wade paved the way for attacks on reproductive rights and women’s ability to make their own decisions about abortion, birth control, and IVF.”