Mar 26, 2024 - Health

Supreme Court seems unlikely to restrict access to abortion pill

Abortion rights activist rally in front of the US Supreme Court this morning. Photo: Drew Angerer/ AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed unlikely to broadly restrict access to medication abortion in the court's biggest abortion-related case since overturning Roe v. Wade two years ago.

The big picture: The justices heard oral arguments in a challenge to mifepristone — one of the drugs used in medication-induced abortions, which account for about two-thirds of all abortions.

  • It wasn't clear from those arguments exactly how the court is likely to rule.
  • But multiple conservative justices took issue with parts of the case against mifepristone. There did not seem to be five justices who were inclined to hand down a broad ruling that would undercut the FDA's regulations of the drug.
  • Two conservatives would need to join with the court's three liberals to uphold the FDA's rules on mifepristone.

Catch up quick: The suit was filed by a group of doctors who object to abortion.

  • They're suing the FDA, challenging two specific sets of regulatory decisions that made the drug easier to access.

What they're saying: The federal government argued that these doctors didn't have the legal standing to bring this case.

  • They don't prescribe mifepristone, and they certainly don't take it. So they haven't suffered any real injury from the FDA's regulatory decisions, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued.
  • The doctors say the injury is the time spent in the emergency room treating women who have taken mifepristone.

Driving the news: Several conservative justices either picked up on standing concerns or expressed skepticism about overturning the FDA's decisions.

  • "This case seems like a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly," Justice Neil Gorsuch said.
  • Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned whether the physicians who brought this case had really suffered much of an injury, and suggested that re-enforcing their individual rights not to participate in providing an abortion might be enough to resolve this dispute.

A ruling is expected by June.

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