Mifepristone case: Supreme Court holds first abortion-related hearing since overturning Roe

Mifepristone case: Supreme Court holds first abortion-related hearing since overturning Roe

On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court heard its first abortion-related case since reversing Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, this time listening to arguments regarding a nationwide ban or new limits on mifepristone, the main drug used for medication abortions.

The Supreme Court heard the case following rulings from various other, lower courts after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took action to ease access to the drug. A district court had enacted a nationwide ban on mifepristone as well. In August 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled on the district court’s ban, refusing to allow some of the most extreme actions to be taken. 

The Fifth Circuit’s ruling did not lead to any immediate changes in access to the drug because of a stay issued by the Supreme Court in April 2023 which prevented any actions being taken that would change access or availability to mifepristone.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the appeals court’s ruling, if allowed to take effect, would prevent people from receiving mifepristone through the mail – as they often do – and “instead require them to travel, sometimes hundreds of miles, just to pick up the medication.”

Earlier this year, on Jan. 31, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein and 24 other attorneys general filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s ruling and protect access to mifepristone.

“No woman should ever have to worry about whether she can get the medication she needs,” said Stein. “I will continue to do everything in my power to stand up for women’s reproductive freedoms.”

According to the brief, the Fifth Circuit “ignored decades of high-quality evidence and clinical research proving that mifepristone is safe and effective.” It goes on to say that, allowing the ruling to take effect “could disrupt access to an effective method of abortion, harming countless women in need of medical care or pregnancy loss management” and “could also lead many people to undergo procedural abortions.”

The science and medicine are very clear – the drug is safe and effective. It has been used by more than five million people since it was approved nearly 24 years ago and medication abortion – not procedural – is the primary way people access abortion care in America. 

The effort to ban mifepristone is a direct attack on a common and essential type of health care. Neither judges nor politicians should have any say or control over the private health care decisions of others.

According to CNN, a “majority of Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical … of the idea of a nationwide ban or new limits on mifepristone,” but we likely won’t have a decision until July. Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, this attempt won’t be the last time anti-abortion extremists try to ban basic reproductive or sexual health care.

Elections matter and they have consequences. We are in an election year and we must elect candidates who support leaving personal health care decisions up to the people involved and not courts or politicians.

Patrick Zarcone

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