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Media Reports Mislead On Supreme Court Abortion Pill Decision

Numerous legal commentators have said that the ruling leaves the door open for more lawsuits fighting access to the abortion pill. 

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Numerous media outlets erroneously reported the Supreme Court “ruled in favor” of access to the abortion pill mifepristone, but in reality the court dismissed the case without addressing the merits of pro-life activists’ argument, opening the door to future challenges. 

The reports follow the conclusion of the FDA’s appeal to the Supreme Court against the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine’s (AHM) challenge to mifepristone’s approval. A U.S. District Court had suspended the approval, but the Supreme Court reversed their ruling.

Attorney Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, director of The Conscience Project, explained that the technical decision related to the parties legally involved, rather than the substance of the pro-life argument.

“In many respects I can understand and I appreciate the value [of] the main point of the opinion, which had nothing to do with the FDA shenanigans and everything to do with judicial restraint,” Picciotti-Bayer told The Federalist in an interview.

A variety of media outlets amplified the decision as “certainly a win” for abortion access, as claimed by Planned Parenthood Medical Officer Colleen McNicholas in an appearance on MSNBC.

An ABC affiliate reported in Washington, D.C., that the “Supreme Court rule[d] in favor of access to abortion pill,” billing the Court’s opinion as a setback for the pro-life movement.

The Washington Bureau of Fox 8 also called the ruling a victory for abortion advocates,” stating that the “Supreme Court rule[d] in favor of abortion rights.” 

The ruling, however, was not a “blow for anti-abortion advocates” or a rejection of their objections to mifepristone, as reported by NBC.  

Understanding of the case hinges on a distinction between a ruling on whether a party involved has legal standing to participate in the lawsuit, and a ruling on the merits of the arguments in play. The court did not evaluate the validity of AHM’s objections to the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. Instead, it determined that AHM lacked standing to sue because they do not prescribe or use mifepristone, and do not allege direct monetary, property, or physical injuries.

“The plaintiffs have sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections to elective abortion and to FDA’s relaxed regulation of mifepristone,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee, wrote in the Court’s ruling. “But under Article III of the Constitution, those kinds of objections alone do not establish a justiciable case or controversy in federal court.”

Numerous legal commentators have said that the ruling leaves the door open for more lawsuits fighting access to the abortion pill. 

Idaho, Kansas and Missouri will continue this legal battle and attempt to establish standing, according to Attorney Kristen Waggoner, who represented the AHM in Supreme Court oral arguments. This could provide an opportunity for the court to evaluate and strike down the FDA approval that “recklessly removed commonsense safeguards” on mifepristone, Waggoner said in an interview with NPR.

Mifepristone is a drug that instigates a chemical abortion, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of abortions last year. The drug has led to the death of dozens of women and serious side-effects, including hemorrhaging and severe infection, in thousands more since 2022, according to FDA data. The drug is currently approved by the FDA for use up to the first ten weeks of pregnancy.


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