A federal judge in Texas overturned the two-decade-old approval of a safe and effective abortion pill on Friday, the latest volley in a conservative battle against reproductive rights in the United States.
If it stands, the ruling by a Donald Trump appointee would reverse permission granted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a drug widely used to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
However, the FDA's safety limits on the abortion pill will remain in place at least temporarily in 15 states and Washington, D.C., while a federal judge in Washington state considers a final decision on a Democratic state-led challenge to the restrictions.
The dueling legal opinions, as well as an immediate vow by the US Department of Justice to appeal the Texas ruling, means the issue is almost certain to end up before the Supreme Court.
Biden vows to 'fight'
US President Joe Biden on Friday called the federal judge's decision to suspend approval of an abortion pill as an "unprecedented step in taking away basic freedoms from women."
"My administration will fight this ruling," Biden said in a statement issued by the White House.
The ruling, if it were to stand, makes every regulated drug vulnerable to "these kinds of political, ideological attacks," Biden said.
The FDA's restrictions, called a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy, include requirements that health-care providers and pharmacies be certified to prescribe the pill and dispense the pill, respectively.
Democratic state attorneys general argued in their complaint in February that the REMS program "only serves to make mifepristone harder for doctors to prescribe, harder for pharmacies to fill, harder for patients to access, and more burdensome for the Plaintiff States and their health care providers to dispense."
Meanwhile, state officials and health-care providers across the country are bracing for a decision in the closely watched Texas case seeking to overturn the FDA's decades-long approval of mifepristone. The lawsuit, led by conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, argues that the FDA illegally approved mifepristone in 2000, and calls on the court to issue an injunction on its distribution.