Abortion pill politics continue after Supreme Court's ruling


The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday that preserves nationwide access to the abortion medication mifepristone was a narrow one, and with some states already preparing other litigation, the political debate about the pill continues.

Former President Donald Trump has kept quiet about his position on the medication, which was used for over 60% of abortions last year. 

In an interview with Time Magazine in April, Trump said he would release a policy position on the drug the following week. “I have an opinion on that, but I’m not going to explain. I’m not gonna say it yet. But I have pretty strong views on that,” he told Time. But that date has come and gone without an announcement from the former president.

“The Supreme Court has unanimously decided 9-0. The matter is settled. This election is about correcting the weakness, failures and dishonesty of the Biden crime family,” said RNC spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez. 

But the Supreme Court ruling on mifepristone remains a relevant question for the presidential aspirants. The president of the United States appoints the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, which administers the drug. The Supreme Court case was brought by a group of anti-abortion rights doctors and medical associations against the FDA, and the high court, in a unanimous ruling, rejected the challenge on procedural grounds, finding that the plaintiffs did not have the legal standing to do so.

The Supreme Court did not address whether the FDA acted lawfully when it took a series of steps in 2016 and 2021 that relaxed the rules for mifepristone’s use. It is possible that a new FDA commissioner could try again to revoke its authorization.

A president who wanted to end the use of mifepristone could also enforce the long-dormant Comstock Act, which could be used to prohibit the mailing of abortion drugs. Asked in that Time interview whether his administration would enforce that act, Trump said he would make a statement on that in two weeks. 

In a closed-door gathering with congressional Republicans Thursday, Trump did not talk about the court’s decision in the mifepristone case but addressed the issue of abortion access more broadly, according to lawmakers in the room, and reiterated his belief that it is now left up to the states to decide policy.

“He said make sure that you exercise your own conscience to talk about it, share your conviction and do that in a way that makes sense to people,” House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters about Trump’s remarks. “The states are handling the issue right now, and that’s where he’s comfortable keeping it.” 

The politics around the issue of abortion has become tricky for Trump. He has praised the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and has taken credit for it, since he appointed three conservative Supreme Court justices during his first term. But the issue has also become a risky one politically for Republicans. In every state — even red ones where abortion access has been on the ballot — it has passed. And the issue has proven to galvanize Democrats at the polls. 

While he supports leaving abortion access to the states, telling Time that “it’s irrelevant whether I’m comfortable or not” with however they decided to legislate, he has also been critical of some state laws. He criticized Florida’s six-week ban as “a terrible mistake” and “too severe.” But he declined to say how he would vote on a Florida ballot measure in November that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution. 

At the same time, Trump also needs support from anti-abortion groups and voters. In a taped address earlier this week to the Danbury Institute, which calls for abortion to be “eradicated entirely,” Trump did not utter the word “abortion.” But he told them, “These are going to be your years, because you’re going to make a comeback like just about no other group… And I’ll be with you side by side.”

Democrats, who have made abortion access central to their reelection pitch, applauded the Supreme Court ruling, but did not celebrate, warning that their fight for abortion access isn’t over yet.

“This is not a cause for celebration because the reality is certain things are still not going to change,” Vice President Kamala Harris said. “We are looking at the fact that two-thirds of women of reproductive age in America live in a state with a Trump abortion ban. This ruling is not going to change that.”



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