SCOTUS Agrees to Hear Case That Could Limit Abortion Pill Access

“This case is the next step in the extremists’ plan to prevent anyone in the country from being able to get an abortion no matter where they live,” said the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project director.

By Jessica Corbett. Published 12-13-2023 by Common Dreams

Photo: Robin Marty/flickr/CC

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear consolidated cases about expanded access to the abortion medication mifepristone, setting the stage for a potentially devastating ruling in the midst of next year’s critical national elections.

The development has some reproductive rights advocates worried. This is the same conservative court that, in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling last year, reversed a half-century of nationwide abortion rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade, paving the way for GOP bans in over a dozen states.

“Since the Court overturned Roe, it has been increasingly difficult for people to get an abortion if they need one, and the court’s decision in this case could make it even more difficult for people to access abortion and could force some people to remain pregnant against their will,” warned Jennifer Dalven, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

“Let’s be clear: This case is the next step in the extremists’ plan to prevent anyone in the country from being able to get an abortion no matter where they live,” she added. “In addition to its devastating effect on people’s ability to get an abortion, a decision siding with anti-abortion groups would severely undermine drug innovation and threaten the development and approval of lifesaving medicines, jeopardizing patients’ access to other critical medications they rely on today.”

Sarah Dohl, Indivisible’s chief campaigns officer, agreed that “the Supreme Court’s decision to review mifepristone access is another glaring example of how far the MAGA extremists are willing to go in their crusade against our rights.”

“They’re not just challenging a medication, but our very autonomy and freedom,” Dohl declared. “Mifepristone’s safety and efficacy aren’t on trial here—our rights are. This is another brazen attempt to control and dictate our personal health decisions and take away the liberty we all deserve. Voters won’t forget.”

The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted requests from the Biden administration and Danco Laboratories—which makes mifepristone as the brand name Mifiprex—to weigh in on a legal battle over 2016 policies that increased access to the medication. The justices also denied a request from the right-wing Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine to consider a challenge to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the drug.

Legal writer Chris Geidner called the high court’s decisions about which cases to take “the best-case scenario for abortion rights supporters.”

Supporters of reproductive freedom stressed on Wednesday that mifepristone—often taken in tandem with misoprostol for medication abortions—is safe and effective.

“People have safely used mifepristone for early abortion care for more than 20 years—opposition to this essential medication is rooted in politics and taking away people’s freedom over their lives and futures,” noted All* Above All president Morgan Hopkins in response to the court’s announcement on Wednesday.

“As the Supreme Court considers this case, know this—the majority of Americans, including people of color and young people, support abortion access and do not want judges, politicians, or the courts interfering with our fundamental rights,” she continued. “Abortion justice can’t wait.”

The decision to hear the mifepristone case comes after the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court ruled Monday that Kate Cox could not get an abortion as an exception to a strict ban despite a lethal fetal diagnosis. While the 31-year-old mother of two had already decided to flee the state for abortion care, Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All, said that the ruling represents “the America the GOP wants.”

The 2024 campaign of Democratic President Joe Biden made a similar argument on Wednesday, taking aim at former President Donald Trump, who appointed three current justices and is the Republican front-runner despite his legal trouble.

“MAGA Republicans—led by Donald Trump—are marching this country toward a full-on national abortion ban, and if the Supreme Court strips away access to safe and effective medication abortion next year, it will be the latest step towards achieving that goal,” said Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez-Rodriguez.

Chavez-Rodriguez pointed out that “in the year and a half since Trump’s Supreme Court overturned Roe, we’ve seen MAGA Republicans across the country rip away access to reproductive healthcare with devastating effects: women and girls forced to carry life-threatening pregnancies, doctors threatened with prosecution for doing their jobs, and bans enacted with no exceptions for rape or incest.”

“Look no further than the case we just saw play out in Texas for evidence of what Trump’s America looks like,” she added. “Restricting access to safe and effective medication abortion would expand this reality nationwide, even in states where abortion remains legal. Voters won’t stand for Republicans attacking their personal freedoms, and that’s exactly what’s at stake in this election.”

Sarah Lipton-Lubet, president of Take Back the Court—which advocates for adding more justices—said Wednesday that “I don’t call my OB-GYN for legal advice, and I don’t need a bunch of activist lawyers making my medical decisions for me.”

“Whatever the court decides in this case, we shouldn’t be in a situation where we are constantly waiting with bated breath to learn what rights we have today,” she argued. “We wouldn’t be in this mess if it wasn’t for the Supreme Court. And we won’t get out of it until we reform the court.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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