Supreme Court will decide access to key abortion drug mifepristone

December 13, 2023

The Supreme Court will decide this term whether to limit access to a key abortion drug—returning the polarizing issue of reproductive rights to the high court for the first time since the conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade last year, reports The Washington Post.

The Biden Administration and the manufacturer of mifepristone have asked the justices to overturn a lower-court ruling that would make it more difficult to obtain the medication, which is part of a two-drug regimen used in more than half of all abortions in the United States.

Oral arguments will likely be scheduled for the spring, with a decision by the end of June—further elevating the issue of abortion, which has proven galvanizing for Democrats during the 2024 campaign season.

The justices will review a decision from the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that said the Food and Drug Administration did not follow proper procedures when it began loosening regulations for obtaining the mifepristone, which was first approved more than 20 years ago. The changes made over the last few years included allowing the drug to be taken later in pregnancy, to be mailed directly to patients, and to be prescribed by a medical professional other than a doctor.

Medications to terminate pregnancy, which can be taken at home, have increased in importance over the last 18 months; as more than one dozen states severely limited or banned abortions following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The justices agreed to review the case as the broader issue of abortion access remains divisive politically and legally. A pregnant woman in Texas this week lost her legal battle for permission to end her pregnancy this week, after she had left the state to obtain an abortion. Last week, a Kentucky woman went to court, asserting the state’s abortion restrictions violate her constitutional right to privacy.

Democrats have tried to capitalize on the backlash to stringent limits, and abortion rights initiatives have played a role in Republican defeats in recent elections in Ohio, Kentucky, and Virginia.

The Supreme Court majority that last year voted to eliminate the nationwide right to abortion and return the issue to the states included three nominees of President Donald Trump. The former president, now the leading GOP candidate for the 2024 election, has touted his role in overturning Roe; but more recently has tried to appear more moderate, attracting criticism from some conservatives.

The case is FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

Research contact: @washingtonpost