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US Supreme Court unanimously rules to uphold access to mifepristone

The United States Supreme Court is pictured. On Thursday, the court unanimously upheld access to mifepristone, a pill used to induce abortions. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Sam Mulick

June 15, 2024 6:17 p.m.

The United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld access to mifepristone Thursday.

FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine – the court’s first abortion case since overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022 – threatened to restrict access to mifepristone, a pill used to induce abortions, across the country, said Amanda Barrow, a senior staff attorney at the Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. The pill was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year, according to the Associated Press.

“This may be the most important case about abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade,” Barrow said.

[Related: UCLA faculty consider implications of overturning Roe v. Wade on privacy rights]

The case comes after the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, an anti-abortion coalition, claimed the FDA lacked sufficient evidence of mifepristone’s safety and effectiveness when it allowed the pill to be sent through the mail and prescribed via telehealth in 2021, according to the Associated Press.

Barrow said she tried to reveal scientifically backed research that demonstrated mifepristone’s safety and efficacy in the amicus brief that the Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy submitted to the court. The brief was submitted in collaboration with Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, a program in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at UC San Francisco.

“In many, many instances, FDA is approving drugs with only one clinical study supporting the drug’s safety and effectiveness,” Barrow said. “And in this case, there are around 16 clinical studies with tens of thousands of patient experiences.”

The case fosters stigma around abortion and creates uncertainty for patients and providers, said Sarah Raifman, a project director at UCSF’s ANSIRH. She added that she believes the accusation that the drug is unsafe is politically motivated rather than scientifically accurate.

“These accusations are really not based in science and are instead driven by motivation to restrict access to abortion for so many people in this country,” she said.

Raifman added that she believes universal access to medical abortions should not be up for debate.

Even though all nine justices upheld access to the drug, their decision to hear the case is significant, said Jaclyn Serpico, a fellow at the Center on Reproductive Health, Law and Policy at the School of Law.

“The fact that they agreed to hear the case in the first place obviously indicates that this Court is interested in continuing to examine the question of abortion access in the United States,” she said.

Expanded access to mifepristone has eased the national shortage of abortion providers, Barrow said. California is already a leader in reproductive care, after passing a law in 2019 that required public university health centers to offer medication abortion on campus, Raifman said.

If the court limited access to mifepristone via telehealth, the ruling could have especially impacted young people, who already might face obstacles such as work, school, or other travel costs to access reproductive healthcare, Barrow added.

Young people should be educated about reproductive rights because the struggle to ensure abortion care will affect them for decades to come, Serpico added.

If the court had ruled to limit access to mifepristone, it would have further stigmatized abortion, she said.

“Abortion is a procedure that has happened all throughout human history across cultures and societies, but it’s something that is often not spoken about publicly or interpersonally,” Serpico said. “It’s really important to talk about it and make sure that people understand that abortion is normal. It is not something that people need to be ashamed of or to hide.”

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Sam Mulick
Mulick is a news contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a third-year sociology student from northern New Jersey.
Mulick is a news contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a third-year sociology student from northern New Jersey.
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