Friday, October 09, 2020

Supreme Court Sends Case On Medical Abortion Access Back To District Court

In Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (Sup. Ct., Oct. 8, 2020), the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hold in abeyance pending further District Court review the FDA's motion to stay an injunction that had been issued against it.  In the case, a Maryland federal district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement during the COVID-19 public health emergency of Maryland's in-person requirements that bar women seeking a medical abortion from obtaining mifepristone through a mail-order or retail pharmacy or to receive the medication by mail from their healthcare provider. The 4th Circuit refused to stay the injunction pending appeal. (See prior posting.) The Supreme Court said: 

The Government argues that, at a minimum, the injunction is overly broad in scope, given that it applies nationwide and for an indefinite duration regardless of the improving conditions in any individual State. Without indicating this Court’s views on the merits of the District Court’s order or injunction, a more comprehensive record would aid this Court’s review. The Court will therefore hold the Government’s application in abeyance to permit the District Court to promptly consider a motion by the Government to dissolve, modify, or stay the injunction, including on the ground that relevant circumstances have changed. ...  The District Court should rule within 40 days of receiving the Government’s submission.

Justice Alito, joined by Justice Thomas, dissented, saying in part:

In response to the pandemic, state and local officials have imposed unprecedented restrictions on personal liberty, including severe limitations on First Amendment rights. Officials have drastically limited speech, banning or restricting public speeches, lectures, meetings, and rallies. The free exercise of religion also has suffered previously unimaginable restraints, and this Court has stood by while that has occurred.

SCOTUSblog reports on the decision.