Supreme Court preserves access to abortion pill mifepristone: Here's a closer look at the case

It's the first major abortion ruling since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

The U.S. Supreme Court building.
The U.S. Supreme Court. (Mariam Zuhaib/AP)

The Supreme Court just upheld full access to mifepristone, a widely used abortion drug. In a unanimous ruling issued on Thursday, the justices decided that the challengers who brought the case did not have standing, or a right to bring the lawsuit.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote the opinion.

"Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff's desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue. Nor do the plaintiffs' other standing theories suffice," Kavanaugh wrote. He also added that "federal courts are the wrong forum for addressing the plaintiffs' concerns about FDA's actions."

Read the Supreme Court ruling here:

🔎 What the ruling means

If the Supreme Court had ruled against the Food and Drug Administration, restrictions on mifepristone would have reverted back to what they were when the drug was approved in 2000.

But since the court tossed the case, prescriptions will still be allowed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and the medication can still be prescribed over telehealth visits and be delivered by mail in states that allow it.

The ruling comes nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion established by Roe v. Wade. As a result of that historic decision, over a dozen states now have total abortion bans in place.

🗣️ Reactions to the ruling

While many abortion rights supporters were relieved by the SCOTUS decision, with the federal right to an abortion absent, they aren't necessarily overjoyed.

"We are relieved by this outcome, but we are not celebrating," Destiny Lopez, acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, said in a statement. "In the face of relentless attacks, policymakers at all levels need to keep pushing forward expansive and protective policies that ensure everyone can access abortion care using the method that best suits their needs."

President Biden said the ruling "does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues — the right for a woman to get the care she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states."

Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups condemned the ruling.

"It is a sad day for all who value women's health and unborn children's lives, but the fight to stop dangerous mail-order abortion drugs is not over," said Kate Daniel, state policy director for SBA Pro-Life America.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, called the decision "disappointing but not surprising" and also expressed concern for the "conscience rights of the pro-life doctors."

💊 What is mifepristone?

The widely used abortion drug has been used by more than 6 million people since 2000, according to the Associated Press.

Mifepristone is one of two pills in a two-step drug regimen to induce an abortion during the early stages of a pregnancy.

"Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone and primes the uterus to respond to the contraction-causing effect of a second drug, misoprostol," the AP reports.

Mifepristone is also used to help with the treatment of miscarriages.

In 2020, more than half of abortions in the U.S. (51%) were induced using medication, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

⬅️ How we got here

The Supreme Court heard two cases consolidated together back in March: FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and Danco Laboratories v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine is a group of anti-abortion-rights physicians and organizations who originally challenged the FDA's 2000 approval of mifepristone, claiming the FDA didn't study it enough and the drug isn't safe. The case ultimately worked its way through the courts, where their challenge is now focused on actions taken by the FDA in 2016 and 2021 to make the drug more accessible.

Read more from the Associated Press on the background of the case.

➡️ What's next?

The Supreme Court still has to decide on another abortion-related case, Moyle v. United States. The justices will have to decide whether a federal law that requires emergency rooms to provide stabilizing care, including abortions, in certain medical emergencies overrides state law in places that impose a near-total ban on abortion, like Idaho.