The SCOTUS Countdown on Medication Abortion Is Here

I’m fully expecting the justices to take up this case.

Collage of New York attorney general Letitia James and a packet of mifepristone tablets
New York attorney general Letitia James submitted an amicus brief against reverting back to placing onerous restrictions on mifepristone access. Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group/Shutterstock

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Reproductive health advocates and Democratic lawmakers from across the country are voicing their support for mifepristone in briefs filed to the Supreme Court, urging the justices to undo an appellate court ruling that threatens to roll back access to medication abortion nationwide.

The amici briefs, or friend of the court briefs, argue in defense of the safety of mifepristone, one of two drugs currently used in the United States for medication abortions. The briefs also advocate for the regulatory process the FDA put in place that governs the approval and distribution of mifepristone, as well as the ability of patients and providers to rely on its availability to manage their abortion care needs.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general and overall thorn in Donald Trump’s side, leads the coalition of states defending medication abortion before the Supreme Court, echoing what we at Rewire News Group have been saying about the case, all along: This case threatens way more than mifepristone access.

Regarding the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in April that rolls back FDA approval to 2016 standards—which place onerous restrictions on medication abortion access—James writes in the brief: “The decision contravenes the mandate of the FDA and undermines the integrity of the FDA-approval process, radically destabilizing the pharmaceutical industry and jeopardizing the development and approval of thousands of innovative drugs and treatments on which amici States and their residents depend to prevent and treat a host of conditions and diseases.”

Meanwhile, in news that shouldn’t surprise anyone, not a single Republican lawmaker signed onto the efforts to defend mifepristone, showing once again that the politics of abortion access is a truly partisan affair.

Conservatives have until November 9 to file their briefs, which will undoubtedly urge the justices to uphold the Fifth Circuit ruling. I fully expect the Court to take the case, which has the potential to accelerate the post-Dobbs abortion care crisis and upend the federal government’s ability to enact health-care regulations grounded firmly in science over religious ideology.

The next thing to watch for is whether anti-choice advocates pull a Dobbs-style switcharoo (don’t forget that conservatives didn’t even initially ask the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade—they waited until after the justices agreed to hear the case to do so) and request that the justices pull mifepristone approval altogether.

At this point, we just wait and see.