Trump administration asks Supreme Court to reinstate abortion pill rule

The Trump administration on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to reinstate a rule mandating that abortion-inducing drugs be taken in the presence of a doctor after a lower court lifted the requirement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The request comes after a federal district judge in Maryland last month suspended the longstanding Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule in response to a lawsuit from the American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as well as doctors and patients. 

Since 2000, the FDA has required that doctors administer abortion pills in person due to health risks associated with misuse of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. But groups including the American Medical Association say the restriction is outdated and medically unnecessary.

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In a July ruling, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang, an Obama appointee, agreed to temporarily lift the in-person requirement during the health emergency, citing the risks of face-to-face contact.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to halt the judge’s order while the Trump administration appeals, prompting Wednesday's stay request to the Supreme Court.

In its petition, the administration urged the justices to revive the FDA rule while the appeal plays out.

“This Court has made clear that judges are not to second-guess how officials address public-health concerns in areas of uncertainty, yet the district court dismissed the FDA’s expert judgment in favor of its own view that the safety requirements are medically unnecessary,” attorneys for the Justice Department argued.