A federal appeals court panel said Wednesday that it would impose restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone that would prevent the drug from being prescribed by telemedicine or dispensed through the mail.
But the decision — the latest development in a closely watched lawsuit filed by abortion opponents seeking to block access to abortion pills — will not take effect until the Supreme Court ultimately decides the case.
In a ruling this spring, the high court said mifepristone should remain available under the current rules until the appeals process concludes.
In its ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld part of a decision issued in April by a federal judge in Texas. That decision, by Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, had nullified the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the pill 23 years ago.
But the appeals court decision on Wednesday kept the F.D.A.’s approval in place. It also kept in place a later approval of the generic version of the drug, which is now used in the most medication abortions.
The main impact of the appeals court decision, if it is upheld by the Supreme Court, would be to reverse changes made by the F.D.A. in recent years that allowed patients to obtain the pill without visiting a doctor or other health provider in person. It would mean that patients would have to make three medical visits and could not receive the pills in the mail.
The ability for patients to use telemedicine and obtain the prescribed pills through the mail has significantly expanded the use of medication abortion, which is now used in more than half of pregnancy terminations in the United States.