USA: Supreme Court overturns restrictions on abortion pill

The US Supreme Court has overturned restrictions on the use of a commonly used abortion pill. In their unanimous decision on Thursday, the nine judges of the conservative-majority Supreme Court ruled that anti-abortion activists and doctors were not allowed to seek restrictions on access to the drug mifepristone in court. In doing so, they overturned restrictions on the use of the abortion pill that had been decided by a court in the state of Texas.

Abortion opponents in the USA have long been trying to restrict nationwide access to the drug, which is sold in Germany under the name Mifegyne. Mifepristone is used in most abortions in the USA. The pill was first approved in the United States by the FDA in 2000, and in 2016 the FDA extended its possible use up to the tenth week of pregnancy.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, appointed by former President Donald Trump, stated in the ruling that the judges acknowledged that “many citizens, including the plaintiff doctors, have serious concerns about and objections to the use of mifepristone to perform abortions.” However, the plaintiffs lack the legal standing to challenge the fact that “other people are simply allowed to engage in certain activities.” Therefore, the lawsuit against the FDA’s actions is not admissible.

The ruling also stated that the plaintiffs must address their concerns about the use of mifepristone to the FDA, the President or Congress. They are also allowed to express their opinions publicly, including in connection with elections. However, federal courts are not the appropriate place for this.

A conservative district judge in Texas appointed under Trump issued a ruling last year that would have banned mifepristone. An appeals court later overturned the full ban because the deadline for challenging the FDA’s approval had expired, but it did restrict access to the drug.

Among other things, the appeals court reduced the period in which mifepristone can be used from ten to seven weeks of pregnancy and prohibited delivery by mail. These restrictions have now been lifted with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In June 2022, the Supreme Court triggered a political earthquake with its highly controversial decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which enshrined a fundamental nationwide right to abortion. About 20 states have since banned or severely restricted abortion.

According to polls, a majority of US citizens are in favor of continued access to safe abortions. However, conservatives are pushing for this to be restricted or banned altogether. Abortion could become an important issue in the US presidential election in November: US President Joe Biden has made protecting the right to abortion one of the main issues of his election campaign.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday, Biden said the “fight for reproductive freedom” continues. Women’s right to the treatment they need continues to be “threatened or denied entirely in many states.” The attacks on medication abortion are part of the Republicans’ “extreme and dangerous plan” to ban abortion nationwide.

In the Senate, Republicans also blocked a bill on Thursday that would establish a nationwide right to artificial insemination. The right to so-called in-vitro fertilization (IVF) should not only apply to families, but also to providers of such treatments. Expanded insurance coverage should also reduce costs.

In a preliminary vote, however, only 48 senators voted for the bill, including only two Republicans. A majority of at least 60 votes would have been necessary.

The law is only intended to “create a nationwide right to artificial insemination and remove obstacles for millions of Americans who want artificial insemination to have children,” criticized Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The issue also affects him personally. “Thanks to the miracle of artificial insemination, I have a beautiful one-year-old grandson.”