Kavanaugh Wrote Decision in Favor of Abortion Pill

But narrow ruling on legal standing doesn't mean the fight over mifepristone is over
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2024 1:10 PM CDT
Kavanaugh Wrote Decision in Favor of Abortion Pill
Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

Advocates of abortion rights won a significant Supreme Court victory on Thursday in a unanimous ruling that means a widely used abortion pill will remain accessible. But the decision was a narrow one—on legal standing, not on the merits of the argument—and it leaves the door open for states to keep the case over mifepristone alive. Coverage:

  • Unanimous: Brett Kavanaugh wrote the unanimous ruling that rejected a legal challenge to the drug brought by doctors and other medical professionals, reports NBC News. But these doctors don't prescribe the pill themselves, the ruling notes. The "plaintiffs want FDA to make mifepristone more difficult for other doctors to prescribe and for pregnant women to obtain," Kavanaugh wrote, per the Washington Post. But under the Constitution, a group's "desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue."

  • Three states: Kansas, Idaho, and Missouri, all led by Republicans, might be able to quickly revive the case against the abortion pill, reports the New York Times. All joined the case as plaintiffs at the lower-court level. "They didn't get to the merits," said Erin Hawley, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the plaintiffs, referring to Thursday's decision. "Those merits will hopefully be at issue later on as the states may move forward."
  • The argument: The plaintiffs argue that the FDA acted recklessly in approving access to mifepristone, including by allowing women to receive it via telemedicine and mail. "It is essential that this case continue in order to ensure that the FDA operates within the law," said Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach. The plaintiffs say the medication poses health risks, but opponents say the courts should not overrule federal scientists who determined otherwise.
  • The impact: The AP notes that mifepristone was used in two-thirds of abortions in the US last year. Advocates for abortion rights say it's especially important given that so many abortion clinics have been forced to close in recent years. The ruling "does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states," said President Biden on Thursday.
(Louisiana is reclassifying mifepristone as a controlled and dangerous drug.)

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