The History of Mifepristone in a Timeline

by Audrey Farris ’25

Mifepristone is a two-pill regimen used to end a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks of gestation, and more than half of the abortions nationwide are performed using this chemical method. Mifepristone blocks the body’s progesterone which is needed for a pregnancy to continue. Approval of and access to Mifepristone is being reconsidered after a ruling from a Texas Federal Judge challenging the legality of the pill. Below is a timeline of the complicated history of Mifepristone and abortion in America. 

January 22, 1973

Roe v. Wade decision was issued by the Supreme Court in a 7-2 vote. This decision protected a woman’s constitutional right to have an abortion throughout the entire country. 


Mifepristone approved for the first time in France. In the first year that it was approved, the French company that produced the drug pulled it off the market due to threats from anti-abortion rights groups. Two days later, the French health minister placed the drug back on the market as France owned part of the company that produced it. Over the next decade, other nations including China, the United Kingdom, and Sweden also approved Mifepristone. By 1999, a dozen more countries approved the drug. 


The FDA approved Mifepristone in the United States for use up to ten weeks gestation. The FDA approved the drug after 4 years of committees, studies, and research about the drug to ensure it was safe for use. 

June 24, 2022

Roe v. Wade decision was overturned by the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, reversing the protection of a woman’s right to have an abortion. Currently, there are 14 states where most or all abortions are banned. 

April 7, 2023

Texas Federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ordered a hold on federal approval of Mifepristone. Kacsmaryk made this decision, stating that the FDA succumbed to political pressure when it approved Mifepristone and that lack of restrictions resulted in many deaths and many more reactions over the place of two decades. 

That same day, Washington Federal Judge Thomas O. Rice ordered that the FDA must not make any changes to the availability of Mifepristone. 

April 13, 2023

The Federal Appeals Court in the 5th Circuit ruled to allow partial access to abortion pills. This ruling limits the availability of abortion pills to up to seven weeks gestation, a reduction from the previous ten. 

April 14, 2023

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito placed a temporary hold on the Federal Appeals Court’s decision that limited access to abortion pills. The hold was in response to a Department of Justice request earlier in the day to block the decision. The purpose of this hold was to maintain the status quo while the Supreme Court considers this case. 

Week of April 16, 2023

As the country waited for a Supreme Court decision, Democratic states began stockpiling Mifepristone in case access to the drug is restricted nationwide. The Supreme Court was expected to weigh in on this case at some point during the week. 

Week of April 23, 2023

The hold was extended and no changes can be made to Mifepristone’s or any abortion medication’s availability. It could be months until an official decision from the Supreme Court is issued. For now, Mifepristone remains available across the entire nation and can still be sent by mail.