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The Supreme Court stepped in to issue a temporary stay in the Texas mifepristone case

MILES PARKS, HOST:

The fight over abortion rights is again before the Supreme Court. The court has temporarily suspended a lower court's ruling that would have dramatically limited access to mifepristone, the pill that's used in the majority of medical abortions and is also used to treat miscarriages. For what happens next, we turn now to NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Good morning, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Miles.

PARKS: So what does this decision from the Supreme Court mean as far as access to this medication?

MONTANARO: For now, it means everything is as it was. I mean, in response to the Justice Department's emergency appeal, the court put a stay through Wednesday on the controversial Texas ruling, which had found that the Food and Drug Administration improperly approved of the abortion medication mifepristone despite it having been approved two decades ago. It also put a pause on a finding by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that would cut back when the drug would be available during a pregnancy from 10 weeks to just seven and would not allow it to be available through the mail. It's unclear what the court is going to do next. But, you know, this is another political lightning rod that's made its way to the Supreme Court as anti-abortion rights activists in state after state continue to push more and more of these restrictive laws.

PARKS: Right. You mentioned politics there. And the 2024 primary field, especially on the Republican side, is already starting to fill up. Have any candidates mentioned this?

MONTANARO: Notably, the leading Republican candidate, former President Trump, has been pretty much silent about this. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who has not announced an official run yet, is the only one to explicitly praise the Texas ruling. Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who also is expected to run and not a candidate yet, signed a six-week ban this past week, which is not very popular nationally. But he was getting a lot of pushback from conservative activists about the 15-week ban that was in place in Florida. They believe that didn't go far enough. There are a lot of others who are running or might run who seem frustrated by this or haven't quite gotten their messages down on it.

PARKS: Like who?

MONTANARO: Well, I'm thinking about Tim Scott in particular, the South Carolina senator who's launched an exploratory committee this week. Earlier this week, he said he would, quote, "definitely" sign a 20-week ban if one came to his desk as president. But he went even further talking to NBC News.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM SCOTT: If I were president of the United States, I would literally sign the most conservative pro-life legislation that they can get through Congress.

ALI VITALI: Even if it was six weeks?

SCOTT: I'm not going to talk about six or five or seven or 10.

PARKS: And, Domenico, how is the American public kind of viewing all of this?

MONTANARO: Right now, it's really clearly putting Republicans into something of a bind. You know, a lot of these red states that have been pushing some of these laws are really outside the mainstream bounds of what's been popular overall. You know, Americans are in favor of some restrictions on abortion, but generally, overall, in favor of abortion being legal in most or all cases. You know, some Republicans we've heard from on Capitol Hill have either said nothing, or they've been saying that banning medication abortion, for example, just goes too far or really don't want to wade (ph) in on it.

A lot of Republicans have tried to push back on Democrats saying that they're extreme, wanting to allow abortions until birth, which isn't really true, by and large. You know, Democrats did pass a bill last year that would have essentially codified Roe, saying nothing could be banned before 24 weeks in states and that abortions would be legal afterward only if deemed medically necessary by a doctor. But what's happening in practice here are these far more restrictive bans that have been pushed in several conservative states. And, you know, President Biden, who's, for all intents and purposes, going to run for reelection, can really just stake out a middle position while Republicans really try to out conservative each other.

PARKS: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you so much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.