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Americans will still be able to buy an abortion pill after the US Supreme Court threw out a bid by campaign groups to restrict access to it.

The decision was made by the same court that two years ago overturned Roe v Wade – which had previously given women rights to terminate a pregnancy.

The drug – mifepristone – was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in September 2000 for medical termination up to seven weeks into pregnancy, extended to 10 weeks in 2016.

It was ruled the plaintiffs behind the lawsuit challenging mifepristone lacked the necessary legal standing to pursue the case, which required they show they have been harmed in a way that can be traced to the FDA.

The plaintiffs wanted an end to rules introduced in 2016 and 2021 that permitted medication abortions at up to 10 weeks of pregnancy instead of seven, and for mail delivery of the drug without a woman first seeing a doctor in-person.

The suit initially had sought to reverse FDA approval of mifepristone, but that aspect was thrown out by a lower court.

Mifepristone is taken with another drug called misoprostol to perform medication abortions – now the most common method of terminating pregnancies in the US.

More on Abortion

Read more: Why were there calls to ban abortion drug?

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Anti-abortion activists outside the Supreme Court in April 2023. Pic: Reuters

The FDA said that after decades of use by millions of women in the US and around the world, mifepristone has proven “extremely safe” and that studies have demonstrated that “serious adverse events are exceedingly rare”.

The plaintiffs, known as the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued the FDA acted contrary to its mandate to ensure medications are safe when it eased the restrictions on mifepristone.

They also accused the administration of violating a federal law governing the actions of regulatory agencies.

US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk broadly sided with them in a 2023 decision that would have effectively pulled the pill off the market.

Analysis: Abortion pill decision offers some respite from complicated patchwork of laws

By Sarah Gough, US producer

Pro-choice campaigners breathed a sigh of relief following the news the Supreme Court will not limit access to medication abortion.

The fight for mifepristone was one of the latest attempts by anti-abortion groups to restrict access to reproductive rights in America following the overturn of Roe v Wade in 2022.

The pill gives much-needed access to abortion care to those who do not yet need to undergo a procedure to terminate their pregnancy. This decision means mifepristone can still be accessed over the counter and through the post with a prescription.

The drug was approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago and has been considered safe ever since. The fact its safety was ever called into question was egregious to many doctors, and women who’d taken the drug, across the country.

It was a unanimous ruling to throw this case out. Unanimous decisions are not something we usually see at the Supreme Court, given the right-wing majority sitting on the bench. However, this was a ruling about how the case was brought, not a moral opinion on whether the abortion pill is necessary or not.

Despite the win for pro-choice groups, there is constant legal wrangling across the US when it comes to abortion care.

The next most consequential upcoming case in front of the Supreme Court concerns whether emergency abortion care can be obtained in spite of abortion bans. It’s being brought out of the state of Idaho, where abortion is entirely banned with limited exceptions, and where some women who go to the emergency room with pregnancy complications are having to be airlifted to nearby states to get the care they need.

Women in restrictive states often have to act via underground methods to obtain an abortion, and doctors live in fear of making hasty, illegal decisions when it comes to reproductive healthcare. What follows is a delay in care, often for the most vulnerable.

The protection of the abortion pill provides some brief respite from a complicated and fraught patchwork of laws.

Read more on Sky News:
What’s changed since Roe v Wade decision was overturned?

However, after the FDA appealed, the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals did not go as far as Kacsmaryk but still ruled against its move to widen access to the pill.

This decision was placed on hold pending the Supreme Court’s review.

The plaintiffs said they had legal standing to sue because their member doctors would be forced to violate their consciences due to “often be called upon to treat abortion-drug complications” in emergency settings.

The Justice Department said these claims relied on an impermissibly speculative chain of events.

Following the decision, Joe Biden said in a statement: “Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues.

“It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom.

“It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.”

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Meanwhile, Mr Trump – speaking at a campaign event – acknowledged the issue had cost Republicans and that it is too important to ignore.

The presidential hopeful said it was his preference for the decision to be made by the people and individual states.

The mifepristone dispute is not the only abortion case the Supreme Court is due to decide during this presidential election year.

It also is expected to rule by the end of June on the legality of Idaho’s strict Republican-backed abortion ban that forbids terminating a pregnancy even if necessary to protect the health of a pregnant woman facing a medical emergency.

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