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26 Mar 2024, 5:17 pm

Supreme Court signals it is likely to reject a challenge to abortion pill access

Quote:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared likely to reject a challenge to the abortion pill mifepristone, with a number of justices indicating the lawsuit should be dismissed.

The court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, heard oral arguments on the Biden administration's appeal of lower court rulings that restricted women's access to the pill, including its availability by mail.

But during the arguments, there was little discussion of whether the Food and Drug Administration's decisions to lift restrictions on the drug were unlawful

nstead, the justices focused on whether the group of anti-abortion doctors who brought the lawsuit even had legal standing to bring the claim. The plaintiffs, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group, argue that the FDA failed to adequately evaluate the drug’s safety risks.

But justices, both conservative and liberal, probed whether the doctors could show that they were directly injured merely because they object to abortion and could potentially be required to give emergency room treatment to a woman suffering from serious side effects.

Several justices also noted that doctors who oppose abortion can already object based on their personal beliefs to assisting patients suffering from abortion-related side effects.

"Under federal law, no doctors can be forced against their consciences to perform or assist in an abortion, correct?" conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked at one point.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, another conservative, asked similar questions.

Even if the court were to reach the merits and rule for the challengers, some justices questioned whether the scope of the lower court ruling was too broad by applying it nationwide instead of limiting it to the doctors who sued.

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch said the case was a "prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule."

The only justices who appeared eager to discuss whether the FDA acted unlawfully and hinted at sympathy for that argument were conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

"Your argument here is that even if the FDA acted unlawfully, nobody can challenge that in court," Alito said in an exchange with Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, who represents the FDA. He and Thomas both referred to the Comstock Act, a 19th-century law that prohibited the mailing of drugs used for unlawful abortions.

Alito also wondered whether the FDA considered itself "infallible."

Different pockets of rallies formed outside the Supreme Court building beginning as early as 7:30 a.m. Most appeared to be in favor of abortion rights, chanting over megaphones, but there were smaller groups of people with signs protesting against “chemical abortions” as well.

Mifepristone is used as part of a two-drug FDA-approved regimen for the majority of abortions nationwide.


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