Attack on Abortion Pills Continues at Supreme Court

| Mar 19, 2024

Nearly two years after the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Dobbs, abortion access is once again in the hands of nine Justices. Next week, the Court will hear oral arguments in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, a case about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process for mifepristone.

When the conservative Justices overturned Roe, they claimed that they were returning the issue of abortion to the political branches and taking the judiciary out of it – but how wrong they were. Instead, just as the dissenters in Dobbs pointed out, the Court’s decision created “profound legal instability,” upending all precedent around reproductive rights. This case is part of the tumultuous new landscape – where anti-abortion activists, policymakers, and judges are marching forward in an attempt to ban abortion nationwide, and where people seeking care are forced to contend with bans and restrictions that undermine their health, economic security, and dignity.

Why this case matters for abortion access, health care, and the integrity of our institutions

Mifepristone is one of two pills commonly used for medication abortions – and medication abortion is on the rise. Even before Roe was overturned, it accounted for more than half of all abortions in the US; now that number is 63% and likely growing. While people may opt for medication abortion for a range of reasons, its availability has been even more essential following the Dobbs decision. In particular, mifepristone helps ensure safe and timely access to care for people who live far away from the nearest abortion provider, who face long wait times for an in-person appointment, or who don’t have the resources or support to otherwise access care.

So this case matters because it has the potential to significantly undermine the availability and accessibility of the most common form of abortion care. Even if you live in a state where abortion is legal or protected, the outcome of this case would still impact your ability to access medication abortion. And, as is the case with all abortion restrictions, people of color, disabled people, people struggling to make ends meet, those living in rural areas, and those without a nearby health care provider are disproportionately harmed by restrictions on medication abortion care.

And while the consequences of this case for abortion access could be devastating, this case is about more than that. This case is about the ability to access life-saving medications writ large. It is also about the integrity of our institutions of government, and whether we can trust the judiciary to act based on law rather than ideology.

Beyond an attack on abortion, this case also represents an unprecedented attack on the FDA’s drug approval process, a system globally viewed as the gold standard. If the Supreme Court second guesses the FDA’s decision-making process for mifepristone, it could open the floodgates to lawsuits over other FDA-approved medications – everything from HIV/AIDS medications, to hormones for gender-affirming care, to cancer treatments, and so much more. Undoubtedly, people who need all kinds of medications to support their health and well-being risk being harmed as a result. A bad outcome in this case also could bog down the FDA’s internal process for approving drugs, slowing the availability of medications that could improve people’s health. It could even chill the process of research and development of new life-saving and health-promoting medications and treatment.

Last but not least, this case will tell us something about the extent to which political extremism and ideological decision-making has infected the Court – in other words, whether the Court will defer to the decades of scientific evidence that the FDA relied on or will instead substitute its own judgment for that of the agency. A bad outcome in this case would undermine the FDA’s authority and its reputation as an agency that makes decisions based solely on scientific expertise, and reveal just how little regard the Court has for other branches of government.

What’s next? And what can we do in the meantime?

After the Court hears oral arguments, it will then deliberate on the case. We can expect the Court to issue its final ruling in June 2024.

In the meantime, if you’re in Washington, DC, join us for a rally in front of the Supreme Court the morning of March 26!

If you or people you know are seeking medication abortion care, know that it is still available. For more specific information about accessing abortion care and the abortion laws in your state, refer to Reprocare’s Abortion Hotline and If/When/How’s Repro Legal Helpline.

Continue to speak out about the importance of this case and what’s at stake – your voices matter.

And check back here in the summer, when we’ll have up-to-date analysis and explanations of what the Court’s decision will mean for abortion access across the country.


For more background on AHM v. FDA, see our previous blogs on this case: