US Supreme Court’s Doubts Surface in Abortion Pill Case

US Supreme Court's Doubts Surface in Abortion Pill Case
A federal judge revoked the FDA's approval of mifepristone in 2023.

US Supreme Court’s Doubts Surface in Abortion Pill Case

The US Supreme Court showed skepticism towards an attempt to restrict access to the commonly used abortion drug, mifepristone, during a Tuesday hearing.

Several justices questioned whether the challenge to the drug’s federal approval was appropriate, marking the most significant abortion case before the court since the national right to abortion was ended in June 2022.

The case revolves around decisions made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ease restrictions on mifepristone’s use since 2016. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a coalition of anti-abortion doctors and activists, filed a lawsuit in November 2022, alleging that the drug is unsafe and that the FDA wrongly expanded access to it.

Despite numerous studies affirming mifepristone’s safety since its FDA approval in 2000, the group argues that its members may suffer harm by treating patients who use the drug to terminate pregnancies, citing religious objections.

However, the US Solicitor General argued that the doctors failed to demonstrate direct harm caused by the FDA’s decisions. She warned that ruling in favor of the anti-abortion group could disrupt the federal drug approval system and harm women nationwide.

Several justices, including some conservatives who previously ruled in favor of anti-abortion plaintiffs, questioned the legitimacy of the case. Justice Amy Coney Barrett queried whether the cited doctors were compelled to terminate pregnancies against their will.

Concerns were also raised about the potential consequences of ruling in favor of the group, with Justice Neil Gorsuch questioning the risk of turning a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly.

Furthermore, liberal justices questioned why the doctors were not already protected by their right to conscientious objection to certain procedures like abortion.

Mifepristone, used in combination with misoprostol, is the most common method of abortion in the US, accounting for 63% of all abortions in 2023. Since 2016, access to the drug has expanded, allowing its use until the 10-week mark and permitting retail pharmacies to dispense it.

A ruling against the FDA could curtail access to mifepristone by rolling back these expansions, raising concerns about its impact on abortion rights in the US. As abortion remains a contentious political issue, both anti-abortion advocates and reproductive rights groups gathered outside the Supreme Court during the hearing, calling on justices to support their respective positions.

 

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