Amy Coney Barrett’s First Abortion Ruling Is No Surprise

The Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday puts abortion patients’ health at risk.

[PHOTO: Amy Coney Barrett facing right with her left hand held up in a pledge]
Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the FDA in the Supreme Court's decision that reinstates a federal policy that requires medication abortion patients to pick up their abortion medications in person. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration Tuesday in a ruling that puts abortion patients’ health at risk—the first abortion-related ruling with Amy Coney Barrett on the bench.

The decision in FDA v. ACOG reinstates a federal policy that requires medication abortion patients to pick up their abortion medications in person. Providers had challenged the policy because of the pandemic and a federal court had blocked it. The ruling puts that policy back in place.

Of over 20,000 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, there’s only one the FDA requires a patient pick up in person: mifepristone, which is used with misoprostol to terminate an early pregnancy.

The FDA requires patients to pick up mifepristone in person even if the patient has already been evaluated by a clinician by telehealth or in-person. Because of the added risks involved with travel and the COVID-19 pandemic, a court suspended this requirement.

That meant that in some states patients could manage their abortions completely remotely with clinician support. This is amazing—and the way abortion care should happen everywhere.

Why would the FDA single out mifepristone for treatment like this? Anti-choice lawmakers like to claim it’s because the drug is not safe. Those claims are total nonsense—shocking, I know.

The reason the FDA singles out mifepristone like this is simple: abortion stigma. But don’t take our word for it. That’s exactly what Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent:

Patients’ health vulnerabilities, public transportation risks, susceptible older family members at home, and clinic closures and reduced services pose substantial, sometimes insurmountable, obstacles for women seeking medication abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under these conditions, the in-person requirements for mifepristone impose an unjustifiable and undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

The Court’s ruling is especially bad for people of color and low-income patients who are already the most impacted by the pandemic. In other words, the conservative justices just made the pandemic WORSE for these folks.

So, can anything be done about this no good very bad decision from the Supreme Court? Yes, something can be done about it!

Once it takes office, the Biden administration could issue a guidance that says the FDA won’t enforce the in-person requirement during the pandemic. That would be amazing.

The administration can then begin the process of undoing that requirement. That will take a lot more time and advocacy work though.

This post was adapted from a Twitter thread.