Abortion Courts

Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Mifepristone Case

FMF attends rally in front of Supreme Court in support of mifepristone

The Supreme Court began oral arguments on March 26th for the case FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, diving into the contentious issue of access to the abortion pill, mifepristone, which is used in more than 60% of all abortions across the nation. The case focuses on two key changes by the FDA in 2021 that expanded mifepristone access: the availability of telemedicine prescriptions and mail delivery of the medication, both of which are now under threat. This is the first abortion centered case that the Supreme Court has heard since the Dobbs decision in 2022.

The challengers of the abortion pill argued for restrictions on the basis of the drug’s safety, but the judges, both liberal and conservative, seemed skeptical. Erin Hawley, representing the conservative anti-abortion group, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued that the FDA overstepped by broadening access to mifepristone in 2016 and 2021. However, much of the Supreme Court’s questioning centered around anti-abortion doctors’ claims of moral objections. They claimed that they were suffering because of the FDA’s actions and that having to distribute these pills was against their moral conscience

Both Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch pointed out flaws in this argument. They noted that while doctors may have moral objections, restricting access to mifepristone would harm patients in need. “They’re saying, ‘Because we object to having to be forced to participate in this procedure, we’re seeking an order preventing anyone from having access to these drugs at all,” Jackson said. “And I guess I’m just trying to understand how they could possibly be entitled to that.” 

Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, speaking for the FDA, also highlighted the absurdity of a nationwide ban based on a few doctors’ objections, emphasizing the extreme harm it would cause to women seeking abortions. She argued that a nationwide ban to restrict a widely used drug because of a few doctors’ objections was illogical: “They don’t prescribe mifepristone,” she said. “They don’t take mifepristone.”

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine’s claim that mifepristone is unsafe were refuted by the FDA, which has deemed it extremely safe with a 95%-98% effectiveness rate since 2000. They have said that “study after study” has shown that serious adverse events are exceedingly rare. The White House released a statement in support of mifepristone, saying that President Biden will “continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone” and his “Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs.” Abortion providers often assert that the abortion pills are even safer than many common over-the-counter drugs, such as Tylenol or Viagra.

Despite a conservative appeals court supporting severe restrictions on mifepristone in August of last year, these restrictions are currently on hold pending the Supreme Court’s decision expected in June.

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