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Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett, both conservative appointees by Donald Trump, expressed concerns during oral arguments over FDA regulation of the abortion pill mifepristone. They questioned whether doctors have been forced to participate in abortions against their conscience. The justices appeared skeptical of the arguments presented by a conservative Christian group challenging the FDA’s approval and oversight of the drug, indicating that the challengers may lack legal standing in the case.

Despite sharing similar backgrounds and beliefs, Kavanaugh and Barrett seemed inclined to uphold the FDA’s rules for access to abortion drugs based on their comments during the arguments. This could have significant implications on the final ruling, especially after the court’s recent decision to reverse Roe v. Wade. The case also highlights the broader issue of access to mifepristone as well as the FDA’s ability to assess the safety and effectiveness of various drugs, not just those related to abortion.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a group of anti-abortion doctors, raised concerns about potential harm to emergency room physicians who may have objections to abortion but could be forced to care for patients with complications from medication abortions. The challengers strategically filed their case in a district with a conservative judge and saw success in lower courts, but faced resistance at the Supreme Court where only Justices Thomas and Alito expressed sympathy for their arguments.

During the oral arguments, Justices Barrett and Kavanaugh focused on the issue of conscience and standing, questioning whether the challengers had identified a specific doctor who had been forced to participate in treating a mifepristone patient. The government’s position was that federal conscience protections already apply to doctors who refuse to perform abortions on religious or moral grounds, with hospitals having contingency plans in place to address such situations.

Planned Parenthood CEO noted that the liberal Justices on the court, such as Kagan and Jackson, supported the government’s position that the challengers lacked standing in the case. They raised concerns about the mismatch between the claimed injury and the remedy being sought by the challengers, questioning whether they were entitled to the relief they sought. Barrett also highlighted the distinction between a D&C procedure and participating in an abortion, indicating a potential lack of standing for the challengers.

Overall, the oral arguments in the case involving FDA regulation of mifepristone revealed a divide among the justices, with conservative Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett expressing concerns about conscience protections for doctors while liberal Justices like Kagan and Jackson emphasized the challengers’ lack of standing. The final ruling, expected by June, could have far-reaching implications for access to abortion drugs and the FDA’s regulatory authority.

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