Supreme Court rejects limits on abortion pill mifepristone

The US Supreme Court has unanimously rejected an attempt to sharply restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

The decision is a major victory for pro-choice activists and comes two years after the court rescinded the national abortion guarantee.

The judges decided that the plaintiffs, a group of doctors and anti-abortion activists, had no legal right to sue.

Mifepristone is one of two drugs used in medical abortion, which is currently the most common method of terminating pregnancies in the United States.

The plaintiffs, known as the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, had argued that the drug’s approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be withdrawn.

But during arguments in the case in March, several of the court’s seven judges were skeptical that any of the plaintiffs had suffered harm from the availability of mifepristone, which is necessary to have legal standing to sue.

“Plaintiffs have sincere legal, moral, and ideological objections to elective abortion and the FDA’s lax regulation,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the court, “but they have failed to demonstrate” any actual harm.

“A plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available to others does not establish standing to sue,” he also wrote.

The high court overturned Roe v Wade, effectively rescinding a federal right to abortion, in June 2022. Since then, 21 states have taken steps to restrict abortion earlier in pregnancy than the standard it set. Seventeen of them banned the procedure at six weeks or earlier.

Thursday’s ruling has no bearing on these laws: Medical abortion remains illegal in states that prohibit abortion. But abortion pills have acted as an effective solution to these bans, with thousands of pills reaching restrictive states through the mail.

Pro-choice activists welcomed continued access to abortion pills, but warned that the Supreme Court’s decision was a qualified victory.

At least three states (Missouri, Kansas and Idaho) have also opposed FDA approval of the drug. Thursday’s Supreme Court decision does not rule out these future challenges.

“This ruling is not a ‘win’ for abortion, it simply maintains the status quo,” Nancy Northup, president of the pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“The attacks on abortion pills won’t stop here: the anti-abortion movement sees how critical abortion pills are in this post-Roe world.”

Anti-abortion groups criticized the decision. But these groups also indicated that the fighting would continue.

“It is a sad day for everyone who values ​​the health of women and the lives of unborn children,” said Katie Daniel, state policy director for Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. “But the fight to stop dangerous mail-order abortion drugs is not over.”

The two-drug regimen was approved for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. A patient is first given mifepristone to induce an abortion and then misoprostol to empty the uterus.

Since 2016, the FDA has made the drug easier to access, allowing doctors to conduct virtual appointments with patients and mail prescriptions. Those more recent approvals were in question in this case.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. are now medication abortions.

Over two decades of use, the FDA, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and other mainstream medical organizations have maintained that both mifepristone and misoprostol are safe for use.

American studies say that medical abortion is about 95% effective in terminating pregnancy and requires additional medical follow-up less than 1% of the time.

Leave a Comment