A Supreme Court decision Friday to keep available — for now — the widely used abortion pill mifepristone was met with relief from one side of the debate, disappointment from the other and a vow from both to keep fighting.
“This is good news, but the facts remain the same: Access to mifepristone should never have been in jeopardy in the first place,” Planned Parenthood tweeted after the court issued a stay on two lower court rulings that would have limited access to the pills.
The court temporarily halted two separate rulings while an appeal is being considered: one from a Texas federal judge who suspended the F.D.A.’s approval of the drug, and another from an appeals court that said the pill could no longer be delivered by mail. Those rulings would have impacted the availability of the drug even in states where abortion is legal.
Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts called the court’s decision a “victory” for abortion patients and providers.
Ms. Healey said “the next attack on reproductive freedom is just around the corner.” In preparation for the possibility of the pill being pulled from the market, she last week asked the University of Massachusetts to purchase a one-year supply of mifepristone for the state.
“Yes, today the status quo access to mifepristone remains,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, an organization that is the lead plaintiff in a case challenging Georgia’s six-week abortion ban. Ms. Simpson said “the week-by-week uncertainty of not knowing the fate of this access” remains despite the Friday ruling.
While statements of muted celebration poured in from elected Democrats and groups supporting abortion rights, comment from Republicans and anti-abortion groups was noticeably sparser.
Attorney General Andrew Bailey of Missouri, who opposes abortion, said through a spokesman that the decision was a disappointment. In February, Mr. Bailey and Republican attorneys general in 21 states sent letters threatening legal action against Walgreens and CVS pharmacies if they dispensed mifepristone.
Mr. Bailey, who also filed a brief in support of the case against the F.D.A.’s approval of the drug, said he remains “confident in the strength of our case.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative Christian legal advocacy organization that is representing the challengers to the F.D.A.’s approval of mifepristone, played down the ruling in a statement.
Its senior counsel, Erik Baptist, said maintaining the status quo while the lawsuit moved forward was a common practice.
“Our case seeking to put women’s health above politics continues on an expedited basis in the lower courts,” Mr. Baptist said. “We look forward to a final outcome in this case that will hold the F.D.A. accountable.”
Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life Action, said Friday’s ruling made her organization’s work more urgent than ever.
President Biden, in a statement released by the White House, said his administration would continue to fight to keep mifepristone available while calling on the public to “elect a Congress who will pass a law restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade.”
Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado, said the court had “averted a disaster that not only would have put women’s health at risk, but also threatened to upend our nation’s entire drug-approval process going forward.”
“Our fight to fully protect women’s right to reproductive care is far from over,” she wrote in a statement.
Nancy Northup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which supports abortion rights, said that the Texas ruling on mifepristone access “sowed chaos, confusion and panic,” adding the court’s decision “is a huge relief, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Democratic leaders also used the moment to characterize Republicans as extreme. The abortion issue has been politically fraught for the G.O.P., and has been blamed for losses in the midterms as well as in a recent high-profile State Supreme Court race in Wisconsin. The party has struggled to reach consensus on policy at both the state and national levels.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat who recently repealed a 1931 abortion ban in her state, said in a statement Friday, “We need to be clear about why this case came before the court in the first place: a fringe, extreme minority that refuses to follow science or respect Americans’ freedoms is judge shopping to impose their agenda on women.”
Mini Timmaraju, president of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, said the continued availability of mifepristone was crucial, but that “the fight, however, is far from over.”
“Once again,” she added, “anti-abortion extremists will use the courts to push their deeply unpopular agenda and once again, we will organize the tens of millions of people who believe in safe, legal abortion to fight back.”
Charlie Savage and Carl Hulse contributed reporting.