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US SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS ACCESS TO ABORTION PILL: MIFEPRISTONE

Nidhi Dutia,  

Bharati Vidyapeeth, New Law College

US SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS ACCESS TO ABORTION PILL: MIFEPRISTONE

WASHINGTON (AP) — On June 13, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled[1] with 9:0 votes to keep the abortion pill mifepristone[2] for women, which became a significant feature in the current social issue on reproductive rights. The Court’s decision is that Mifepristone shall continue to be used under the current guidelines set up by the FDA that approves and implements distribution of the drug. This is the biggest decision on abortion since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) [3] in the year 2022.

Case Background

It was filed by a group of anti-abortion doctors who were opposed to the FDA’s rules about mifepristone; the rules that were eased since 2016, made the drug too accessible to the public. These rules enabled mifepristone to be posted without the face-to-face consultation with a doctor and expanded the application of the drug for 70 days of pregnancy. The plaintiffs said that the presence of such availability could result in emergencies that may affect their line of practice and known moral values.

Thus, a federal appeals court in Texas banned mifepristone’s mailing and restricted its application up to the seventh week of pregnancy putting many constraints on the medicine.[4] This led to a legal dispute which reached the level of the Supreme Court. Thus, the plaintiffs claimed that certain FDA activities might prejudice women and affect the plaintiffs’ practice; the regulations were further considered arbitrary and capricious.

Supreme Court's Rationale

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who penned the decision for the unanimous Court, was of the view that the plaintiffs’ complaints about the availability of contraception to others on moral or ideological grounds could not be considered legal injuries that gave them standing to sue. He stressed that it is not the federal courts that can be encouraged in this regard, but the elected members. He penned the following remarks: There is no sign that federal courts are the proper institution to address every policy disagreement, but parties must have personal stake; they must prove their standing.

This rule that almost all jurisdiction of plaintiffs to sue in federal courts must establish direct and personal harm is a significant principle of the judicial process. In most of the liberal democracies, ideological scrutiny alone cannot take a case in court meaning that only those that have a raw, immediate stake can oppress the policies.

Implications and Future Considerations

The approval of mifepristone by the FDA upheld by the Supreme Court means that it stays available for use under the current regimen which means it can be ordered by mail and used at up to ten weeks gestation. This is especially important in the present-and-post Roe V. Wade world where more states are putting in place measures to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. Supporters of reproductive rights note that medication abortion is a safe effective means of ending unwanted early pregnancy. In the previous year, 63% of all abortions in the U.S. were medication abortions, making mifepristone crucial in the bucket of reproductive healthcare.[5]

That, however, does not cut future events as the Ernst & Young case suggests where a party with a proper standing makes a case. Several states, including Idaho, Missouri, and Kansas, have made statements about their intent to continue the litigation against the FDA for providing its approval of mifepristone. However, going by the unanimous Supreme Court opinion, they will have a challenging time, and may find it exceedingly difficult to prove their standing. The focus of the decision means that it becomes more difficult for plaintiffs to properly bring forth a case against someone else since they must prove their injury as direct and personal, which may also reduce future opportunities for lawsuits.

Analyzing the context of the nested case reports in the broader legal and social context

Ever since the SC ruling on MTP Act 1971, the nation has become divided on the rights of women specifically on reproductive health.[6] For the pro-choice camp, the decision is a welcome and much-needed bright spot; however, it also raises the question of how much more legal wrangling is to come. This perspective encourages specificity in legal standing and adheres to the notion of the role of the Court in not general policy disputes.

There are several other monumental cases for the top court to deliver its verdicts in the coming weeks, such as on ER on abortions, actions of ex-President Trump; around January 6, environmental laws; and access to firearms. All these cases have the potential to substantially alter American law and society, and the unanimous opinion seen in mifepristone’s appeal might not be repeated in its future decisions.

Conclusion

Both the substance of the opinion and its importance for the future of reproductive rights in the United States place this ruling among the Supreme Court’s most significant decisions in recent years: The Court’s five-Justice majority has held that Appellants failed to establish standing to challenge the FDA’s approval of the protocol for mifepristone, thus affirming a critical dimension of reproductive healthcare in the United States. This ruling also affirms the tenets of legal standing as a constitution and focal point of the judicial procedures to allow only those with vested real interest in the case to form a case in court. This decision does not only safeguard reproductive health, rights, needs and services, which in a way can be considered vital, but it also clearly restates the limitations of the court when it comes to policy disagreements.

Thus, this ruling appears to be favorable for reproductive rights advocates, but any uncertainty still does exist. Thus, mifepristone stays available under the existing regulatory requirements set by the FDA, which makes it an important win for those fighting for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy. The recent ruling has highlighted the role of justice in Racial & Reproductive Justice and the legal struggle for justice and fairness in Central America. Thus, the outcome of the verbal ruling will inevitably be felt throughout the existing and future debates on reproductive health care service and rights and freedoms of an individual that continue in the United States of America due to the waiting for more decisions of the Supreme Court.

References

[1]ABC News, Unanimous Supreme Court preserves access to widely used abortion medication, ABC News (June 13, 2024), https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/unanimous-supreme-court-preserves-access-widely-abortion-medication-111091672
Questions and Answers on Mifepristone for Medical Termination of Pregnancy Through Ten Weeks Gestation, (Sept. 1, 2023), https://www.fda.gov/drugs/postmarket-drug-safety-information-patients-and-providers/questions-and-answers-mifepristone-medical-termination-pregnancy-through-ten-weeks-gestation
[3] Mark Sherman, Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; states can ban abortion, AP News (June 25, 2022), https://apnews.com/article/abortion-supreme-court-decision-854f60302f21c2c35129e58cf8d8a7b0
[4]Appeals court keeps abortion pill on the market but sharply limits access, (Mar. 20, 2023), https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/13/appeals-court-keeps-mifepristone-on-the-market-but-sharply-limits-access-00091840
[5]Medication Abortions Accounted for 63% of All US Abortions in 2023 - An Increase from 53% in 2020, Guttmacher Institute (Mar. 2024), https://www.guttmacher.org/2024/03/medication-abortion-accounted-63-all-us-abortions-2023-increase-53-2020
[6]Nabodita Ganguly, Supreme Court passes landmark judgement on abortion, The Hindu BusinessLine (Sept. 29, 2022), https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/supreme-court-passes-landmark-judgement-on-abortion/article65951867.ece

 

 

 

 


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