SCOTUS abortion pill ruling leaves advocates eyeing future legal battles

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that plaintiffs comprising doctors and a group of those opposed to abortion pill Mifepristone did not have legal standing to sue

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Many abortion rights supporters are considering Thursday a narrow win after learning the most commonly used abortion pill in the country, Mifepristone, will still be accessible after a Supreme Court ruling.

The Court ruled that the plaintiffs in the case, comprising doctors and individuals opposed to the use of the medication, did not have standing to sue, a ruling being heralded both as a victory by abortion rights activists and a potential springboard for other legal challenges.

"I think it’s a big victory that they didn’t feel they could rule in favor of (the plaintiffs') own particular religious beliefs," said Cathleen Gutekanst of Chicago for Abortion Rights.

It all started when a group of advocates and doctors opposing the drug filed a lawsuit, saying the FDA didn't do enough to evaluate safety risks of Mifepristone. Thursday, the Justices did not weigh in on the merit of those claims, and instead ruled the plaintiffs don't have standing to sue.

"An individual has to show that he or she has suffered an injury in fact. Actually suffered something, not that they just disagree with the governance decision," said Northwestern University Law Professor Daniel Rodriguez.

He believes the day's ruling is a significant decision regarding legal standing to bring a lawsuit forward under Article III of the Constitution.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in part the "desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing."

It was a unanimous ruling.

However, some advocates for abortion rights fear this decision, because it was not based on the lawsuit's merit, reads as a roadmap in the future for other lawsuits that could have legal standing.

"I was disappointed that they only issued their ruling on that narrow basis that they did not have standing," said Gutekanst.

But Rodriguez believes it's unlikely plaintiffs challenge this particular regulation again. However, he does believe there could be other methods in the future.

"I think ultimately if there’s going to be complaints brought that are meaningful, there will be complaints not brought in the federal courts, but complaints brought to the administrative agencies like the FDA," he said.

Meanwhile Illinois Right to Life released a statement saying:

“The Biden administration has allowed the distribution of chemical abortion to go largely unchecked, even to the extent that women can order it to be delivered to their homes without the oversight of a doctor. This is a dangerous drug that’s virtually unregulated and a growing threat to women’s health and safety.” 

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