The Supreme Court has ruled that the abortion pill mifepristone should remain widely available for now, a decision that maintains access to the drug while the lower courts consider the issue. Julie Rovner, KFF Health News’ chief Washington correspondent, appeared on NPR’s “Weekend All Things Considered” to explain the complicated, even contradictory court decisions surrounding mifepristone and what they mean for patients and providers.

On April 21, the justices sent back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals the case challenging the FDA’s decades-old approval of mifepristone. The appeals court previously ruled the drug could remain on the market, but it required the FDA to reinstate restrictions that had been relaxed in 2016 due to newer evidence about the drug’s safety and efficacy.

Rovner said one major outstanding question is whether that ruling would ban the generic version of mifepristone, which was not approved until 2019 — and is used in many more abortions in the United States than the drug’s brand-name version.

The case has implications well beyond abortion, as mifepristone is used to treat people experiencing miscarriages. The drug industry and others have sounded the alarm that overturning the FDA’s approval of the drug would open the door to lawsuits challenging other controversial drugs, granting judges with no scientific or medical training the power to overrule the FDA.

Read Rovner’s past coverage of the fight over abortion access. And listen to episodes of “What the Health?” — KFF Health News’ weekly policy podcast hosted by Rovner.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF—an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism. Learn more about KFF.


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Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.