Supreme Court Justices Skeptical Of Abortion Pill Arguments

( – On Tuesday March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine case regarding nationwide restrictions on the abortion pill mifepristone. In their complaint, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine claims that the FDA didn’t fully consider important safety concerns regarding the drug when they removed some of the restrictions for it in 2016 and 2021. However, the court seemed doubtful of the Alliance’s arguments and their standing to challenge the FDA in this matter.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett was skeptical that the organization represents a significant number of doctors who might encounter the dire medical situations the Alliance has expressed concern over. The organization is open about the fact that along with OB-GYNs, they also represent other medical professionals such as dentists, as well as people who have retired from medicine. Erin Hawley, lawyer for the anti-abortion groups and wife of Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, responded that the Alliance has hundreds of active OB-GYNs among its members, referencing several named plaintiffs in the case.

Many of the Justices seemed skeptical that such groups even have the right to challenge the FDA. Famously conservative Justice Clarence Thomas questioned whether the group has the kind of standing necessary to challenge the FDA’s drug approval process and directly asked U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar for an example of who would have the standing to question the FDA’s decisions. Prelogar did not directly answer but suggested that the Alliance does not have such standing as they do not take or prescribe mifepristone.

While other arguments were heard, including the argument that patients and doctors could run afoul of the 1870s-era Comstock Act which prohibits the sending or receiving of “lewd” materials, including abortion aids, it did not seem as though the challengers made a lot headway in their arguments on Tuesday. Progressive Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson repeatedly demanded to know why the Alliance felt they were entitled to the remedy they were asking for, which would deny others access to the drugs. However, both sides are adamant that the matter is not settled and have a variety of plans to push their respective agendas in the future regardless of the outcome of the November election.

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