Abortion-Rights Backers May Get a Win at Supreme Court

Most justices sound skeptical about challenge to abortion pill mifepristone
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 26, 2024 12:19 PM CDT
Supreme Court Seems Unlikely to Restrict Abortion Pill
Abortion-rights supporters rally outside the Supreme Court Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

It looks like those who support abortion access will be getting good news from the Supreme Court. The justices heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could drastically curb use of the commonly used abortion pill mifepristone, and news coverage is pretty much unanimous in asserting that most justices—both liberals and conservatives—sounded skeptical about doing that.

  • Standing: For one thing, the justices seemed especially doubtful that the plaintiffs had the legal standing to sue the FDA, reports the AP. Justice Neil Gorsuch, for example, worried the suit could be "a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule or any other federal government action."

  • Overreach? The court also suggested the lawsuit was overreach by doctors who personally objected to abortion, reports the Wall Street Journal. Such doctors could simply decline to prescribe, noted Ketanji Brown Jackson. She and others suggested that made more sense than restricting access to all women. "Under federal law, no doctors can be forced against their consciences to perform or assist in an abortion, correct?" asked Brett Kavanaugh, per the New York Times.
  • No examples: The plaintiffs—represented by the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom—had argued that mifepristone is dangerous, but the justices faulted them for not providing actual examples. "You need a person," Elena Kagan said. "So who's your person?" At another point, Amy Coney Barrett said: "The difficulty, to me, is that the affidavits do read more like conscience objections," Barrett said.
  • A way forward? The Washington Post notes that Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito referenced the Comstock laws from the 1870s that prohibit the mailing of "obscene" materials, including abortion material. One legal expert predicts they will write a dissenting opinion that could give abortion opponents a future avenue to try to prevent the mailing of abortion pills.
  • The ruling: It is expected in June or July.
(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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