Questions about abortion pill's future as Supreme Court hearing looms

The last time abortion went before the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, which was considered precedent, was overturned.
Posted at 8:59 PM, Dec 14, 2023

Mifepristone is on the line and a Supreme Court hearing is now on the horizon. Questions over the future of the drug that's been approved over 20 years are causing confusion for many. 

Sabrina Talukder is the director of the Women's Health Initiative at the Center for American Progress, a program that helps develop political efforts for women's access to reproductive health.

"Because the Dobbs decision has upset legal precedent to such a degree, we are now living in a world of mass confusion and chaos where there are a lot of gray areas and we don't know what to do, whether it's medical providers, pharmacists, patients, lawyers," said Talukder.

While many abortion-rights groups are in favor of the fact that the Supreme Court will be hearing arguments to reverse an appellate court ruling to cut access to mifepristone, the fact that it's gotten to the nation's highest court is something she believes should never have happened.

"It is a critical case, not just in determining the next chapter of abortion access in the United States, but also what this case signals in terms of the politicization of the judiciary of medicine. This case — like my other really important take, in addition to this being a case about abortion access, is that it is actually so much more," said Talukder. 

Supreme Court to hear abortion pill case that challenges FDA approval
Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Supreme Court to hear abortion pill case that challenges FDA approval

A federal appeals court intervened in the FDA's approval process for an abortion drug that was approved by the agency in 2000.


The last time abortion went before the Supreme Court, Roe v. Wade, which was considered precedent, was overturned.

This, Talukder says, is creating concern among many abortion rights advocates and women in general about access to the drug, which is used in more than 50% of abortions in America.

"This is a long case with probably an even longer ending. And so people should not live in fear that they won't be able to access this necessary medication. I would want everyone to know loud and clear that the law right now is that mifepristone is available," Talukder said.

The drug, however, is also used when a woman needs a medically-assisted miscarriage, as well as in the treatment of Cushing's syndrome.

What's not known is how a SCOTUS ruling would also impact these usages for the drug.

"How is a drug that has been on the market for 20 years that over 5 million women have taken and it's been proven that it's safe and effective so many times — how is that all of a sudden up for debate in any way?" she said. 

However, if SCOTUS rules against mifepristone, experts and advocates say the most important next step would be looking for guidance from the FDA to see if there are ways states can continue making sure the medication stays available.

"But there is always the question of implementation," Talukder said. "So even, post-Dobbs, we've seen first states do all different kinds of things to ensure access to medication abortion, whether it is extending Medicaid waivers, to different prescriptions or, creating shield laws, which allow for providers and patients to be shielded for prosecution when they go back home."