Supreme Court Upholds Access to Abortion Pill, Rejects Anti-Abortion Lawsuit

The US Supreme Court has unanimously rejected an attempt to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone. This decision, which follows two years after the court rescinded the nationwide guarantee to an abortion, was welcomed by pro-choice advocates.

The justices ruled that the plaintiffs, a group of anti-abortion doctors and activists, did not have the legal standing to sue. However, they left the possibility open for other challenges to limit the drug’s availability. Mifepristone is one of two drugs used in medication abortions, the most common method for terminating pregnancies in the US.

The plaintiffs, known as the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, argued that the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the drug should be revoked. However, during the case arguments in March, several justices were skeptical that the plaintiffs had suffered any harm from mifepristone’s availability, a requirement for legal standing to sue.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the court, stated that while the plaintiffs had sincere legal, moral, and ideological objections to elective abortion and the FDA’s regulation, they failed to demonstrate actual injury. He noted that a desire to make a drug less available to others does not constitute standing to sue.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade in June 2022, effectively rescinding the federal right to abortion, 21 states have moved to restrict abortion earlier in pregnancy than the standard previously set. Seventeen of these states have banned the procedure at six weeks or earlier. Thursday’s ruling does not impact these laws—medication abortion remains illegal in states that prohibit abortion. However, abortion pills have become a workaround, with thousands being mailed to restrictive states.

Pro-choice activists viewed the decision as a positive step in maintaining access to abortion pills but cautioned that it was only a partial victory. At least three states—Missouri, Kansas, and Idaho—are also challenging the FDA’s approval of the drug in court. The Supreme Court’s decision does not prevent future legal challenges.

Nancy Northup, president of the pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights, stated that the ruling is not a victory for abortion but merely preserves the current situation. She emphasized that attacks on abortion pills would continue, given their importance in a post-Roe world. President Joe Biden echoed these sentiments, noting that the fight for reproductive freedom is ongoing and crucial for women across America.

Anti-abortion groups criticized the decision but vowed to continue their efforts. Katie Daniel, state policy director for Susan B Anthony Pro-Life America, expressed disappointment, stating that the fight against mail-order abortion drugs is not over.

Abortion is anticipated to be a significant issue in upcoming elections, presenting a challenge for some Republicans who are caught between a base that opposes abortion and a general electorate that broadly supports access to the procedure.

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