A close-up view of a small orange box of mifepristone pills resting on a clipboard that's out of focus.

The New York Times Company

The restrictions, which would prevent mifepristone from being mailed to patients and would require in-person doctor visits, are on hold until the Supreme Court weighs in.

A federal appeals court panel said on Wednesday that the abortion pill mifepristone should remain legal in the United States but with significant restrictions on patients’ access to it, setting up a showdown before the Supreme Court on the fate of the most common method of terminating pregnancies.

The decision, which would prohibit the pill from being sent through the mail or prescribed through telemedicine, is the latest development in a closely watched lawsuit that seeks to remove abortion pills entirely from the market by invalidating the Food and Drug Administration’s 23-year-old approval of mifepristone. But for now, the ruling will have no real-world effect: In April, the Supreme Court said mifepristone would have to remain available under the current rules until the appeals process concludes.