Supreme Court upholds abortion pill access in major ruling

Washington DC - The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected restrictions imposed by a lower court on an abortion pill widely used to terminate pregnancies.

Reproductive rights activists rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington DC demanding protections for abortion pill access.
Reproductive rights activists rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington DC demanding protections for abortion pill access.  © DREW ANGERER / AFP

The court, in a unanimous opinion, said the anti-abortion groups and physicians challenging the medication, mifepristone, lacked the legal standing to bring the case.

Abortion rights are one of the key issues in the November election, and the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden had urged the court to maintain access to the drug, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000.

His opponent, Donald Trump, leads a Republican Party broadly favoring blocks to abortion access.

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The mifepristone case was the first significant abortion case heard by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court since it overturned the previously long-held constitutional right to abortion two years ago.

"We recognize that many citizens, including the plaintiff doctors here, have sincere concerns about and objections to others using mifepristone and obtaining abortions," said Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote the 9-0 opinion.

"But citizens and doctors do not have standing to sue simply because others are allowed to engage in certain activities," Kavanaugh said. "The plaintiffs lack standing to challenge FDA's actions."

The conservative justice said the federal courts were "the wrong forum for addressing the plaintiffs' concerns about FDA's actions," and they could present their objections through regulatory procedures or through the "political and electoral processes."

Mifepristone restrictions lifted after unanimous Supreme Court ruling

A pro-abortion rights activist holds a box of mifepristone during a rally in front of the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2024, in Washington, DC.
A pro-abortion rights activist holds a box of mifepristone during a rally in front of the US Supreme Court on March 26, 2024, in Washington, DC.  © DREW ANGERER / AFP

Abortion opponents have been seeking to restrict nationwide access to the pill, claiming it is unsafe and that anti-abortion doctors were being forced to violate their conscience by intervening on patients who suffered complications after using it.

A conservative US district court judge in Texas, who was appointed during Trump's presidency, issued a ruling last year that would have banned mifepristone.

An appeals court overturned the outright ban because the statute of limitations on challenging the FDA's approval had expired, but restricted access to the drug.

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The appeals court reduced the period during which mifepristone can be used from 10 weeks of pregnancy to seven weeks, blocked it from being delivered by mail, and required the pill to be prescribed and administered by a doctor.

The Supreme Court ruling lifts those restrictions.

Cover photo: DREW ANGERER / AFP

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