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Partial Win in the FDA v AHM Supreme Court Case

June 20, 2024

By Nadia Smith

There are two key takeaways to celebrate as a result of the FDA v Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine case despite the disappointing decision of the Supreme Court. One is that the FDA can be held accountable, and the other is the victory for conscience rights.

The FDA v AHM case sought to hold the FDA accountable by arguing that the government agency should have never removed the commonsense safety measures meant to protect pregnant teens and young adult women prescribed the abortion drug mifepristone. Two lower courts agreed that the FDA acted unlawfully and ruled in favor of AHM and the other plaintiffs. However, the Supreme Court, in its June 13, 2024 decision, ruled to dismiss the case for “lack of standing.”

“Nothing in today’s decision changes the fact that the FDA’s own label says that roughly one in 25 women who take chemical abortion drugs will end up in the emergency room — a dangerous reality the doctors and medical associations we represent in this case know all too well,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Erin Hawley. “The FDA recklessly leaves women and girls to take these high-risk drugs all alone in their homes or dorm rooms, without requiring the ongoing, in-person care of a doctor.”

Based on the oral arguments presented to the Supreme Court in March, the Court found that AHM and the other plaintiffs failed to sufficiently demonstrate that they were harmed by the FDA’s decision and therefore could not legally challenge the legality of its actions. However, the ruling did not address the actions of the FDA, thus leaving the door open for others to bring suit with “legal standing.” ADF has already noted that three states remain in the litigation and intend to hold the FDA accountable.

Second, the government was forced to concede that federal law does protect physicians with conscientious objection to abortion.

According to Hawley, “The government’s initial position was that federal law would not protect our doctors from being forced to participate in abortions. Yet at the Supreme Court, the FDA changed its position and said that federal conscience laws definitively protect doctors in these circumstances. This about-face explains why the Supreme Court parted ways with every other court to consider this case.”

This is a win for AHM and the other plaintiffs because it resulted in the court recognizing that “Federal law fully protects doctors against being required to provide abortions or other medical treatment against their consciences” and therefore ensures health care professionals are not prosecuted by the government or employers for exercising that right.

For the moment, as CMA’s Health Care Policy Committee Chair Dr. Tim Millea points out, “The dangers associated with mifepristone remain, yet we look forward to the continuing efforts of states that will ultimately lead to the correction of the FDA’s decision.”

The Catholic Medical Association is a founding member of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. As such, President Michelle Stanford, MD,  promises that CMA will “continue to advocate for the best care for mothers and babies even during unexpected and difficult pregnancies.”