Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Abortion Pill Case

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Abortion Pill Case
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra / Unsplash

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could restrict access to mifepristone, which is one of the two drugs used in a medication abortion. The case, formally known as The Alliance For Hippocratic Medicine v. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the first major abortion-related case the country’s highest court is hearing since the 2022 Dobbs decision which reversed Roe v. Wade.

The conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit in 2022 in Amarillo against the FDA, arguing that mifepristone should have never been approved. The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000. It is safer than both penicillin and Viagra.

Because Alliance Defending Freedom’s lawsuit was filed in Amarillo, the case was heard by Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk. Last year, Kacsmaryk issued a ruling that invalidated the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. That was immediately appealed and the Fifth Circuit blocked the ruling, while still leaving in place some restrictions on mifepristone. The Supreme Court ultimately intervened and nulled those decisions, leaving in place the current rules over distributing mifepristone.

Now the Supreme Court is reviewing some of the FDA’s actions in regard to mifepristone. In 2016, the FDA extended the timeline for when mifepristone could be used from seven to ten weeks into a pregnancy. In 2019, the agency also approved a generic version of the drug. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA also suspended in-person requirements that allowed clinics to ship mifepristone (and the other drug used in medication abortion misoprostol) throughout the country.

The ramifications for any new constrictions on mifepristone would have an immediate impact even in states that have not banned or restricted abortion. Last week the Guttmacher Institute released a triannual report showing medication abortion accounted for 63 percent of all abortions in the United States, an increase from 53 percent three years earlier. That same report noted the sharp rise in telemedicine providers that can mail abortion pills throughout the country: which increased from 7 percent to 31 percent since 2020.