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The United States Supreme Court decided on April 21 that the abortion pill known as mifepristone would remain approved and accessible. The dissenting voices within the court belonged to Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Justice Alito cited concerns of "irreparable harm" when voicing his dissent to the court's decision. President Biden, in contrast, voiced his support for the court's decision as well as the FDA's approval of the safety and effectiveness of the drug.
The court’s decision comes as a surprise to some because the same court decided last year to overturn the landmark case Roe v. Wade. The decision to overturn the case that protected abortion rights for many was protested widely.
Notably, conservative Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett, who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last year, did not join the dissenting voices in the decision to keep the abortion pill legal and available.
Last year's overturn of Roe v. Wade sparked several “trigger laws” outlining restrictions to and criminalizing abortion. Some laws punish physicians and those who help people obtain abortions with fines or imprisonment. The most restrictive laws target the abortion of pregnancy after six-week gestation.
Mifepristone, the drug of concern, can end a pregnancy within ten weeks of gestation. Early forms of medicinal abortion like this may be helpful in certain states like Utah, where abortion bans are enforced at 18 weeks gestation. However, it would not be helpful in states like Texas, Idaho, or Kentucky, which enforce six-week gestation bans on abortion.
It should be noted that the gestation weeks in question are counted from the first day of the person's last menstrual period. As such, a six-week gestation would be merely a two-week late menstrual period from a regular, 28-day cycle. The National Institute of Health reports that up to 25% of women live with irregular menstrual cycles that could be longer than 35 days.
Most abortions performed in 2020 were done so medicinally. The medication used in 98% of those medicinal abortions was mifepristone. Data for the prevalence and method of abortions after the court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade are not yet available. A ban on the drug may have been detrimental to many who seek early, effective, and safe abortions.
Edited by Niko Balkaran.
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