National News

Federal Judge’s Ruling Blocks Some North Carolina Restrictions on Abortion Pill Access

Boxes of mifepristone are seen at Alamo Women’s Clinic in Carbondale, Ill., on April 9, 2024. (Photo: OSV News/Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in North Carolina blocked some, but not all, state restrictions for access to medical abortion pills to be used at home.

The June 3 ruling, by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles, prevents North Carolina from requiring that abortion medications be prescribed and picked up in person and it also prevents local prosecutors from charging people with violating the laws. The ruling kept in place state restrictions requiring an in-person consultation and ultrasound before receiving a prescription, noting that the FDA had not reviewed these requirements.

The ruling could be appealed by the defendants, the state House Speaker and Senate leader.  It could also be impacted by an upcoming decision by the Supreme Court about access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

The mifepristone case is the first abortion ruling before the Supreme Court since it overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago.

The federal lawsuit against the abortion pill that was argued before the Supreme Court was filed last November by the group Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine on behalf of itself and member groups such as the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and other pro-life groups. They were represented by the religious liberty law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom.

The challenge claimed the FDA “ignored the potential impacts of the hormone-blocking regimen on the developing bodies of adolescent girls” and disregarded evidence that chemical abortions cause more complications, particularly bleeding, than surgical abortions.

Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is the first of a two-drug regimen used to end a pregnancy in its early stages. 

The U.S. bishops have been vocal in their opposition to the drug since it was first given FDA approval more than 20 years ago. They echoed their objections in 2016 when the FDA relaxed rules for the drug’s use, saying it could be administered with fewer visits to a doctor. They also objected to the FDA’s announcement last year that it was allowing some retail pharmacies to distribute the drug.