NEWS: Supreme Court Sets Date for High-Stakes Abortion Pill Oral Arguments

| Feb 1, 2024

Supreme Court Sets Date for High-Stakes Abortion Pill Oral Arguments

Politico, January 29, 2024

The Supreme Court on Monday set a date for one of the highest-stakes and closest-watched cases of the term – announcing it will hear oral arguments on how patients can access mifepristone, the commonly used abortion pill, on March 26. In December, the high court said it would hear the case brought by the conservative group Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine challenging policies expanding access to the drug mifepristone. Those policies, issued in recent years by the FDA, have allowed the pills to be prescribed online, mailed to patients and dispensed at brick-and-mortar pharmacies. The court turned down a broader challenge by the same group that sought to overturn the decades old approval of the drug for use in abortions – arguments that could have effectively banned the pills nationwide. The case, which is to be the Supreme Court’s first significant return to the abortion issue since it overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, could affect health care for millions – including those in states that protect abortion rights. Earlier this month, the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to reverse lower court rulings that sharply curtail access to mifepristone. The 5th Circuit’s ruling last year, the department said, “threatens profound harms to the government, the healthcare system, patients and the public” and would “upend the regulatory regime for mifepristone.” The appellate court’s ruling is on hold for now, meaning there will be no change in how the pills are distributed until the Supreme Court issues its decision, most likely in June.

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ACLU Warns Supreme Court That Lower Court Abortion Pill Decisions Relied on “Patently Unreliable Witnesses”

CBS News, January 30, 2024

The American Civil Liberties Union is warning the Supreme Court that lower court decisions in a closely watched battle over a widely used abortion pill relied on “patently unreliable witnesses” and “ideologically tainted junk science.” In a friend-of-the-court brief the ACLU filed with the Center for Reproductive Rights and The Lawyering Project, the groups argued the lower courts that have ruled in the case involving the drug mifepristone supplanted the Food and Drug Administration’s scientific judgment with unproven assertions from anti-abortion rights medical associations and doctors about the alleged harms of medication abortion. They indicated that the judges’ acceptance of those claims is an outlier and pointed out that other courts hearing cases related to abortion have engaged with those same witnesses and research and “routinely discredited [the anti-abortion rights doctors’] evidence for lack of scientific integrity.” The ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights and The Lawyering Project are backing the Biden administration in its dispute involving mifepristone. The justices are set to hear arguments on March 26. Access to mifepristone remains unchanged until the Supreme Court renders a final decision, which is expected by the end of June and would have a nationwide impact, even in states where abortion is legal. “It’s the Supreme Court’s responsibility to determine whether the evidence in the record adequately supports the 5th Circuit’s conclusions both that the plaintiffs in this case have standing to bring it and that the courts were right to override the FDA’s scientific judgments,” Julia Kaye, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, told CBS News. “Doing so necessarily involves looking critically at witnesses and research cited throughout the 5th Circuit’s opinion.”

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‘Rage’ Abortion Donations Dry Up, Leaving Funds Struggling to Meet Demand

The Hill, January 28, 2024

Abortion funds that help people cover the costs of getting the procedure are struggling with money as the waves of donations that followed the end of Roe v. Wade have begun to dry up. It’s led some of the independent organizations – which help cover expenses for abortions and associated costs, such as transportation, child care, and lodging – to scale back or even pause operations. After the Dobbs decision in June 2022, many funds received large donations from Americans outraged at seeing the right to an abortion stripped away. The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), which comprises 100 funds across the country, said its members disbursed close to $37 million to about 103,000 people from July 1, 2022, to June 30. That was an 88 percent increase in spending compared to the year before. People giving money were so angry at the time that the gifts were described as “rage” donations. But as the issue has faded from headlines, donations have too, even as demand for help and the costs for helping individual people have skyrocketed. “We noticed with any sort of moment that happens, whether it is a certain election, an introduction of an abortion ban, or in this case, the overturning of Roe, there is this immediate desire to like, make a contribution to abortion funds or make contributions to the movement,” said Oriaku Njoku, NNAF’s executive director.

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The Dangers of Spotlighting the ‘Perfect’ Abortion Patient

The Hill, January 31, 2024

Last week, coinciding with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Vice President Kamala Harris embarked on a nationwide “Reproductive Freedoms” tour. The vice president intends to highlight “extreme attacks” on reproductive rights and harms triggered by anti-abortion laws “while sharing stories of those who have been impacted.” There is no shortage of devastating stories to highlight. The nation watched as Kate Cox, a mother who faced the news that her wanted pregnancy was incompatible with life, was forced to flee her home state of Texas to obtain safe abortion care. The nation watches while pregnant women are denied needed abortion care, even when their health and lives are at risk. The nation watches as states implement complete abortion bans. The nation watches as states prosecute women for miscarriages. The nation watches as federal courts conclude that hospitals aren’t required to provide abortion care in the case of medical emergencies. It is critical, and it is strategic, that these stories of extremism are told. They lay bare the post-Dobbs “Handmaid’s Tale” reality we are living in and expose the right’s intent to erode all reproductive freedoms, no matter the cost. Unfortunately, all too often only the most extreme stories with “good” reasons for abortion – the horrific cases of sexual violence, life endangerment or fetal abnormalities – enter public discourse to highlight the “perfect patient” whose story is easiest to sympathize with. All too often that patient is white, cis-gender and appears to be middle class. We must reject the moral binary that intimates that there are women whose reasons for abortion make them deserving of compassionate abortion care and those who do not.

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Republican Legislatures in Some States Are Trying to Keep Abortion Off the Ballot

AP News, January 28, 2024

Legislative efforts in Missouri and Mississippi are attempting to prevent voters from having a say over abortion rights, building on anti-abortion strategies seen in other states, including last year in Ohio. Democrats and abortion rights advocates say the efforts are evidence that Republican lawmakers and abortion opponents are trying to undercut democratic processes meant to give voters a direct role in forming state laws. “They’re scared of the people and their voices, so their response is to prevent their voices from being heard,” said Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund. “There’s nothing democratic about that, and it’s the same blueprint we’ve seen in Ohio and all these other states, again and again.” Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in 2022, voters in seven states have either protected abortion rights or defeated attempts to curtail them in statewide votes. Democrats have pledged to make the issue a central campaign topic this year for races up and down the ballot. A proposal passed Wednesday by the Mississippi House would ban residents from placing abortion initiatives on the statewide ballot. Mississippi has among the toughest abortion restrictions in the country, with the procedure banned except to save the life of the woman or in cases of rape or incest. In response to the bill, Democratic Rep. Cheikh Taylor said direct democracy “shouldn’t include terms and conditions.”

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Note: The information contained in this publication reflects media coverage of women’s health issues and does not necessarily reflect the views of the National Partnership for Women & Families.