UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity update on latest mifepristone ruling by U.S. Supreme Court

With all the recent court cases about mifepristone, it can be hard to keep up. UW CORE will endeavor to keep its followers updated with the latest information, especially about the implications for Wisconsin. See a previous April 8 update from CORE on competing court decisions related to FDA approval of mifepristone.

After much legal back and forth, last Friday (April 21), the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that — at least temporarily — protects access to mifepristone while legal challenges make their way through lower courts. Thus, access to abortion, including medication abortion, remains the same as prior to last summer’s overturning of Roe v. Wade: banned in many states, including Wisconsin, and legal and available in many states.          

While mifepristone’s use will remain intact elsewhere where legal, it still cannot be used for abortion care in Wisconsin. Due to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and an 1849 abortion ban, medication abortion is not currently available through the formal healthcare system in Wisconsin unless to save the life of the pregnant person.

Currently, mifepristone can be used for miscarriage management and labor management in Wisconsin. Mifepristone is a standard medicine used in miscarriage care as well as second-trimester labor induction.

“Friday’s Supreme Court decision maintains the status quo. However, that status quo is a grim reality for Wisconsinites who are currently unable to access any abortion care in our state.”

Many researchers and clinicians argue that the courts should never have considered banning medication abortion in the first place. Efforts to remove FDA approval for mifepristone go against decades of research that has determined mifepristone to be safe and effective for a variety of reproductive healthcare services, including both abortion and miscarriage management.

Even though mifepristone’s FDA approval remains in place for now, future rulings may affect other aspects of abortion healthcare access and delivery, including implications for dispensing medication abortion pills by mail — another practice shown to be safe and effective.

“Friday’s Supreme Court decision maintains the status quo,” says Jenny Higgins, CORE director and the Bissell Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UW-Madison. “However, that status quo is a grim reality for Wisconsinites who are currently unable to access any abortion care in our state. And unfortunately, further threats to evidence-based abortion care are on the horizon.”

“That said,” she adds, “people should know that even if mifepristone becomes unavailable in the future, medication abortion will still be possible where abortion remains legal. Experts have established that misoprostol alone remains safe and effective for abortion care, as well as miscarriage management.”

Higgins is available for media interviews about the ruling and its impact.

A recent CORE brief explains medication abortion, recent changes in federal policy with consequences for medication abortion access, and other current or anticipated legal and policy challenges. However, the landscape is in flux, given the most recent ruling. CORE will continue to monitor, assess, and share developments.

An additional CORE brief published in April documents the high costs and barriers for Wisconsinites seeking an abortion in the post-Roe landscape.