▶ Watch Video: Full interview: Former Vice President Mike Pence on “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan”

Washington — Former Vice President Mike Pence, who is expected to seek the GOP presidential nomination, said he would like to see a widely used abortion pill taken off shelves to “protect the unborn” and said he has “deep concerns” about the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug mifepristone more than 20 years ago.

In an interview that aired Sunday on “Face the Nation,” Pence addressed the Supreme Court’s order on Friday that preserved access to mifepristone as litigation over the FDA’s 23-year-old approval of the medication continues.

“I’d like to see this medication off the market to protect the unborn,” Pence told CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa. “But I have deep concerns about the way the FDA went about approving mifepristone 20 years ago. I’m grateful that action is being taken in the courts to hold the FDA accountable to what the law requires in reviewing any medication that’s made on the marketplace.”

The Supreme Court’s intervention in the dispute over mifepristone came after a federal judge in Texas blocked the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone on April 7. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit narrowed the district court’s decision, but rolled back a series of actions taken by the FDA since 2016 that relaxed the rules surrounding the drug and made it easier to access.

The Justice Department and pharmaceutical company Danco Laboratories, which makes mifepristone, asked the Supreme Court to pause the lower court orders, and the justices agreed to do so Friday, maintaining the abortion drug’s availability for now.

Pence said that the FDA should be held accountable under the law for how it approved mifepristone, and he criticized the Biden administration for lifting a policy in 2021 that required the abortion pill to be dispensed in-person, which allowed it to be sent by mail.

“For the sake of protecting the unborn, but also for the health and safety of women, I’m looking forward to this litigation continuing and holding the manufacturers of mifepristone accountable,” Pence said.

Medication abortions have become increasingly common and accounted for more than half of all abortions in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mifepristone is taken in combination with a second medicine, misoprostol, to terminate a pregnancy through 10 weeks gestation.

The FDA has argued in court papers that the risk of serious adverse events from mifepristone is extremely low when it is taken as directed, and serious complications associated with mifepristone are rare, involving just a fraction of a percent of cases. More than 5 million women have ended their pregnancies using mifepristone, according to court filings.

The dispute over the abortion pill’s availability is the most significant to land before the Supreme Court since it overruled Roe v. Wade last June. Since then, more than a dozen states have imposed near-total bans or more stringent limits on abortions. In 15 states, restrictions are in place that make it harder for patients to obtain medication abortions, including by requiring the drugs to be provided by a physician, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights research organization. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to unwind the constitutional right to abortion was a significant victory for conservatives, who for decades have been pushing for Roe’s reversal. But the issue of abortion is expected to be a major one in the 2024 election.

Last week, the head of the anti-abortion rights group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America criticized former President Donald Trump for saying that abortion policies should be decided by the states, calling the position “morally indefensible for a self-proclaimed pro-life” presidential candidate.

Pence said he disagrees with Trump’s assertion and abortion “isn’t a states-only decision.” Instead, the former vice president called for a national ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

“The cause of restoring the sanctity of life to the center of American law is the calling of our time,” he said. “The Supreme Court in the Dobbs decision last June gave the American people a new beginning for life. It returned the question of abortion to the states and to the American people. But it didn’t just return it exclusively to the states.”

Pence said he is proud that the three justices appointed to the Supreme Court during the Trump presidency all voted to overturn Roe. But he said that he believes now, Americans who oppose abortion rights want their elected officials to “seize every opportunity to put the interests of the unborn first and also, in equal measure, to demonstrate the generosity and compassion of the American people, toward women who’ve been caught up in abortion in the last 50 years, and women who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy today,”