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Supreme Court restores in-person requirement for obtaining abortion pills

The Supreme Court on Tuesday restored an FDA rule requiring people seeking abortion pills to acquire them in-person. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
The Supreme Court on Tuesday restored an FDA rule requiring people seeking abortion pills to acquire them in-person. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Trump administration to resume enforcing a rule requiring abortion pills be obtained in person at approved healthcare facilities.

In a 6-3 ruling Tuesday, the court's conservative majority lifted a nationwide injunction that allowed people seeking abortion pills to receive them through mail or delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Medical and advocacy groups challenged Food and Drug Administration rules requiring patients to obtain the medication -- prescribed for abortions in early pregnancy -- in-person despite the fact that it can be taken at home.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the court should defer to political agencies on such matters.

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"The question before us is not whether the requirements for dispensing mifepristone impose an undue burden on a woman's right to an abortion as a general matter. The question is instead whether the District Court properly ordered the Food and Drug Administration to lift those established requirements because of the court's own evaluation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Roberts wrote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, stating that U.S. laws have "long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks."

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"Like many of those laws, maintaining the FDA's in-person requirements for mifepristone during the pandemic not only treats abortion exceptionally, it imposes an unnecessary, irrational and unjustifiable undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to choose," Sotomayor wrote. "One can only hope that the government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times."

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Justice Stephen Breyer also dissented but did not join Sotomayor's opinion.

In October, before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court, the Supreme Court rejected a request to lift the injunction, stating "a more comprehensive record" would aid its review and granting the judge who imposed the ban the opportunity to modify it to make it less restrictive.

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