Supreme Court to Rule on Access to Common Abortion Drug

( – On Tuesday, March 26th, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Biden administration’s appeal of a lower court ruling that restricted access to mifepristone, an abortion pill. Mifepristone was approved by the FDA to be used in conjunction with misoprostol to terminate early pregnancies in 2002. In 2016, the FDA began a series of actions that lifted restrictions, thus making the drug more accessible. In 2021, the FDA allowed the medication to be obtained via mail.

In November 2022, a group of professionals in the medical field who oppose abortion rights filed a lawsuit in Texas with the federal district court. The lawsuit challenges the initial approval of the drug along with the more recent relaxed restrictions.

According to the lawsuit, the group believes the FDA did not have the authority to approve the sale of mifepristone and therefore broke the law. The lawsuit also claims the FDA did not “adequately consider the drug’s safety and effectiveness.” District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk from Texas issued a ruling that “completely invalidated the FDA’s approval of the pill.”

During the arguments on Tuesday, the justices appeared to focus less on the lawfulness of actions by the FDA and more on whether the group of medical professionals who brought the lawsuit had legal standing to bring the claim.

Justices asked if the doctors, who oppose abortion, could show how they were directly injured by potentially being required to treat women suffering from side effects of using the abortion drug. Justices including Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett asked questions that denote an existing federal law that gives doctors the right to object to seeing patients who suffer from side effects relating to abortion based on their personal beliefs.

If the doctors fail to convince the Supreme Court they would “suffer a concrete injury,” the justices would dismiss the case.

Fourteen U.S. states have completely banned abortion, including the use of the pill. Many other states either have or are seeking to rule on restrictions around abortion rights.

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