Supreme Court Will Take on Abortion Pill, Trump Cases

Court could set limits on mifepristone, undo Capitol riot charges against hundreds, including Trump
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 13, 2023 10:15 AM CST
Supreme Court Takes Up 2 Big Cases on Trump, Abortion Pill
People stand on the steps of the Supreme Court, Feb.11, 2022, in Washington. The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a dispute over a medication used in the most common method of abortion in the United States. It’s the court’s first abortion case since it overturned Roe v. Wade last year.   (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

The Supreme Court agreed on Wednesday to take up a dispute over a medication used in the most common method of abortion in the United States, in what the AP reports is its first abortion case since it overturned Roe v. Wade last year. Also Wednesday, the court agreed to hear an appeal that could upend hundreds of charges stemming from the Capitol riot, including against former President Trump. A look at the two cases:

  • The abortion pill: The justices will hear appeals from the Biden administration and the maker of the drug mifepristone asking the high court to reverse an appellate ruling that would cut off access to the drug through the mail and impose other restrictions, even in states where abortion remains legal. The restrictions include shortening from the current 10 weeks to seven weeks the time during which mifepristone can be used in pregnancy.

  • Abortion pill, continued: The nine justices rejected a separate appeal from abortion opponents who challenged the FDA's initial approval of mifepristone as safe and effective in 2000. The case will be argued in the spring, with a decision likely by late June, in the middle of the 2024 campaign. Mifepristone is one of two drugs used in medication abortions, which account for more than half of all abortions in the United States. Abortion opponents filed their challenge to mifepristone in November 2022 and initially won a sweeping ruling six months later revoking the drug's approval entirely. The appeals court left intact the FDA's initial approval of mifepristone. But it would reverse changes regulators made in 2016 and 2021 that eased some conditions for administering the drug.

  • And Trump: The justices will review an appellate ruling that revived a charge against three defendants accused of obstruction of an official proceeding. The charge refers to the disruption of Congress' certification of Joe Biden's 2020 presidential election victory over Trump. That's among four counts against Trump in special counsel Jack Smith's case accusing the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner of conspiring to overturn the results of his election loss. Trump is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The court's decision to weigh in on the obstruction charge could threaten the start of Trump's trial, currently scheduled for March 4. The justices separately are considering whether to rule quickly on Trump's claim that he can't be prosecuted for actions taken within his role as president.

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The obstruction charge has been brought against more than 300 defendants in the massive federal prosecution following the deadly insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. A lower court judge had dismissed the charge against three defendants, ruling it didn't cover their conduct. US District Judge Carl Nichols found that prosecutors stretched the law beyond its scope to inappropriately apply it in these cases. Nichols ruled that a defendant must have taken "some action with respect to a document, record, or other object" to obstruct an official proceeding under the law. The Justice Department challenged that ruling, and the appeals court in Washington agreed with prosecutors in April that Nichols' interpretation of the law was too limited. Other defendants, including Trump, are separately challenging the use of the charge. (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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