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DOJ asks Supreme Court for emergency stay in abortion pill fight

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(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay of an appeals court ruling that would sharply restrict access to the widely-used abortion medication mifepristone.

The restrictions were set to take effect early Saturday morning.

On behalf of the Food and Drug Administration, the DOJ has asked the court to impose an immediate administrative stay of the 5th Circuit’s abortion pill decision — to preserve the status quo while the justices consider the application — but to ultimately stay the ruling pending appeal.

“If allowed to take effect, the lower courts’ orders would upend the regulatory regime for mifepristone, with sweeping consequences for the pharmaceutical industry, women who need access to the drug, and FDA’s ability to implement its statutory authority,” the DOJ stated.

The government says the ruling creates a “host of unprecedented issues” that put the FDA in an “impossible position,” particularly in light of the dueling order out of Washington state.

“Regulated entities are trying to discern their legal duties and urgently demanding guidance. FDA has spent the last week first grappling with the implications of the district court’s order, then racing to untangle the different and enormously more complicated issues raised by the Fifth Circuit’s decision. And in the meantime, another district court has enjoined FDA from doing anything to change the conditions on the distribution of mifepristone in 17 States and the District of Columbia — which means that FDA risks contempt if it takes action to permit the marketing of mifepristone in a manner consistent with the Fifth Circuit’s order. This Court should put a stop to that untenable situation by staying the district court’s order in full,” the Justice Department’s application said.

The administration told the high court that a decision by a district court federal judge in Texas is “the first time any court has abrogated FDA’s conditions on a drug’s approval based on a disagreement with the agency’s judgment about safety — much less done so after those conditions have been in effect for years.”

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