Supreme Court appears likely to reject challenge to stop abortion pill access

 March 27, 2024

The Supreme Court appeared inclined on Tuesday to dismiss a challenge to the abortion pill mifepristone, as several justices suggested the lawsuit lacked legal standing.

During oral arguments, the court, dominated by a 6-3 conservative majority, heard the Biden administration's appeal regarding lower court rulings that constrained women's access to the pill, particularly its mail-order availability.

The debate

The debate primarily centered on whether the anti-abortion doctors behind the lawsuit had sufficient legal standing.

Represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group, the plaintiffs contended that the FDA inadequately assessed the drug's safety risks.

Justices, both conservative and liberal, probed whether the doctors could demonstrate direct injury merely due to their objection to abortion, particularly if they might be required to provide emergency treatment to women experiencing serious side effects.

They also noted that doctors opposed to abortion already have avenues to decline involvement based on their personal beliefs.

The views of the justices

Conservative justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett questioned the breadth of the lower court's ruling, suggesting it might be too expansive if applied nationwide rather than limited to the suing doctors.

Justice Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito seemed more receptive to arguments questioning the FDA's actions, while liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson highlighted potential chaos and deterrence of innovation if untrained judges second-guessed the approval process.

"The case is a major test for the conservative-majority court, which in 2022 overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established a woman's constitutional right to end her pregnancy," NBC News reported.

"The FDA has the backing of the pharmaceutical industry, which has warned that any second-guessing of the approval process by untrained federal judges could cause chaos and deter innovation," it added.

The public battle

Outside the Supreme Court, rallies reflected diverse views on abortion, with some advocating for them and others protesting "chemical abortions."

A dozen pro-abortion activists were arrested outside of the Supreme Court over actions that brought more attention to the already controversial situation.

The oral argument follows a Texas-based judge's ruling last year that invalidated the FDA's approval of the pill, a decision subsequently limited by an appeals court.

Both sides appealed to the Supreme Court, which is primarily focused on the FDA's recent actions regarding mifepristone as the intense legal battle moves ahead in the nation's highest court.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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