Two upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases this term could impact abortion rights and victims of domestic violence.
The high court has not set a date yet to hear oral argument for Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. Food and Drug Administration but the question around gun rights for individuals with domestic violence restraining orders will be heard on Nov. 7.
Although the Supreme Court has not scheduled a hearing for the case against the FDA’s approval in 2000 of mifepristone as part of the two-step regime for medication abortion, the court is widely expected to hear the case this term. During the legal whiplash that took place last spring around the case, the high court stepped in and stated that mifepristone, would continue to be on the market until it could consider whether to take up the case in the following term.
The U. S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made the most recent ruling on the issue over the summer. That decision agreed in part with lower federal court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s ruling against the FDA.
If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision would become the law. That would take the FDA’s regulations on mifepristone back to 2016, which would eliminate providers’ ability to dispense abortion medication through telehealth and require patients to travel to an abortion clinic to receive one pill.
The Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit reproductive health research group, found that in April 2022 before the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, medication abortion provided via telehealth amounted to 4 percent of abortions in the U.S. But in December 2022, six months after the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, that figure rose to 11 percent of all abortions in the U.S. for that month.
Last month Danco Laboratories, the sole brand name drug manufacturer of mifepristone in the U.S. filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking for it to review the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. The U.S. Department of Justice also petitioned for a review of the lower court’s decision.
One of the legal questions in the case is how the Fifth Circuit’s decision would impact states like New Mexico should it be allowed to stand. A separate court decision in eastern Washington, delivered by federal court Judge Thomas Rice in April, ruled that 18 jurisdictions, including New Mexico, would continue to have access to mifepristone and that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision will not pertain to those 18 jurisdictions.
But some reproductive rights advocates have worried that without uniform access to abortion medication across the U.S. supply and demand could have ripple effects.
Ellie Rushforth, reproductive rights attorney for American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said if the Supreme Court takes up the case, it may not make its decision until June of 2024.
The Supreme Court often releases some of its most controversial decisions at the end of its term in June.
Rushforth said laws banning abortion are now in effect in more than 20 states.
“The next step…[for anti-abortion groups is] to destroy reproductive freedom in an attempt to impose a nationwide ban on mifepristone. Mifepristone is also used in miscarriage management and to treat certain hormonal disorders and endometriosism,” she said.
The lawsuit the Supreme Court will hear that could impact New Mexico victims of domestic violence is United States v. Rahimi.
The case questions whether a federal law requiring individuals with domestic violence restraining orders against them cannot possess guns violates the second amendment.
New Mexico Attorney Genera Raul Torrez said the lower court’s ruling on United States v. Rahimi allowing domestic violence abusers to be armed sets “a dangerous precedent.”
“I urge the Supreme Court to reject this radical interpretation of the Second Amendment. Keeping firearms out of the hands of felons, abusers, drug addicts and other prohibited persons is part of this nation’s historical tradition and represents the kind of common sense approach that most people –including most gun owners– strongly support,” Torrez said via email.
The Supreme Court, with its 6-3 supermajority of conservative justices, has expanded second amendment rights in recent years.