The Supreme Court unanimously rejected a case challenging the abortion medication mifepristone, saying the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of the drug.

What You Need To Know

  • The Supreme Court preserved access to abortion medication mifepristone, unanimously rejecting a challenge to the FDA's approval of the drug

  • The justices determined that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the approval of mifepristone and said that "federal courts are the wrong forum" for overturning the FDA's regulatory process

  • It's the high court's first major abortion ruling since it overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022

  • The ruling brings to an end a yearlong saga which began when U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump based in Texas, issued a sweeping, unprecedented ruling that would have revoked access entirely to the drug

The court upheld access to the widely used abortion medication, rejecting the challenge from a group of anti-abortion doctors who argued that the FDA's loosening of restrictions on the drug in 2016 and 2021 was dangerous to the health of women. The high court sided with the Biden administration and the drug's manufacturer, who both argued that restricting access to the drug and ruling in favor of the anti-abortion activists could undermine the FDA's regulatory authority.

"Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff's desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue," conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the opinion of the unanimous court. "Nor do the plaintiffs' other standing theories suffice. Therefore, the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge FDA's actions."

Kavanaugh also wrote that "federal courts are the wrong forum" to challenge the FDA's actions, and said that the plaintiffs should "present their concerns and objections to the President and FDA in the regulatory process, or to Congress and the President in the legislative process."

"And they may also express their views about abortion and mifepristone to fellow citizens, including in the political and electoral processes," he added.

It's the high court's first major abortion ruling since it overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. The high court is also weighing another abortion case over whether a federal emergency medical treatment law overrides state-level abortion bans.

"Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues," President Joe Biden said in a statement after the ruling. "It does not change the fact that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.

"It does mean that mifepristone, or medication abortion, remains available and approved," he continued. "Women can continue to access this medication – approved by the FDA as safe and effective more than 20 years ago."

"But let’s be clear: attacks on medication abortion are part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide," the president added, lamenting state-level abortion bans, which have led to women being denied medical treatment and medical professionals being threatened with jail time, as well as efforts to restrict IVF and contraception.

"The stakes could not be higher for women across America. Vice President Harris and I stand with the vast majority of Americans who support a woman’s right to make deeply personal health care decisions," Biden concluded. "We will continue to fight to ensure that women in every state get the health care they need and we will continue to call on Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade in federal law — that is our commitment."

The ruling came down as Trump -- who appointed three of the six justices who overturned Roe -- visited Capitol Hill and urged Republican lawmakers to improve their messaging on abortion, according to those in the room.

The ruling brings to an end a yearlong saga which began when U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump based in Texas, issued a sweeping, unprecedented ruling that would have revoked access entirely to the drug. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed parts of Kacsmaryk's ruling, but reversed the 2016 and 2021 changes the FDA put in place to loosen access to the drug.

“We recognize that many citizens, including the plaintiff doctors here, have sincere concerns about and objections to others using mifepristone and obtaining abortions,” Kavanaugh wrote for the court. “But citizens and doctors do not have standing to sue simply because others are allowed to engage in certain activities – at least without the plaintiffs demonstrating how they would be injured by the government’s alleged under-regulation of others.”

More than 6 million people have taken mifepristone since it was approved by the FDA in 2000. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol is the most commonly used form of abortion in the U.S., with medication abortion accounting for 63% of all abortions nationwide last year. 

Abortion rights groups celebrated the ruling on Thursday, but largely echoed the same conclusions: that the case should have never been brought, and the fight over reproductive rights is far from over.

"This is a sigh of relief for abortion access nationwide — but this case should never have gone as far as it did," Reproductive Freedom for All wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. "Mifepristone has been safely used for over 20 years by millions of people for abortion care and miscarriage management. So why did this case make it so far? Because anti-abortion extremists used disinformation and junk science to attack mifepristone in their quest to end abortion care nationwide."

"I have both relief and anger about this decision," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Thank goodness SCOTUS rejected this unwarranted attempt to curtail access to medication abortion, but the fact remains that this meritless case should never have gotten this far. Unfortunately, the attacks on abortion pills will not stop here—the anti-abortion movement sees how critical abortion pills are in this post-Roe world, and they are hell bent on cutting off access."

Democrats took a similar stance.

"This ruling does not change the fact that millions of American women are today living under cruel abortion bans because of Donald Trump," Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement released by Biden's reelection campaign. "Nor does this ruling change the threat to medication abortion. We know the Trump team has a plan to try to end access to medication abortion and carry out a Trump Abortion Ban in all 50 states, with or without Congress, if they get the chance. We cannot and will not let that happen."

“The contrast is stark: While Trump relentlessly attacks reproductive freedoms, President Biden and I will never stop fighting to protect them," she added. "Americans have repeatedly made it clear they want more freedom, not less, and they will make their voices heard at the ballot box once again this November."

"Though I am relieved by today's decision made by the Court, no one should be celebrating this decision," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in remarks on the Senate floor after the ruling. "This decision should have been an obvious one."

"This decision was not based on the merits, but on a lack of standing," he continued. "We are not yet out of the woods. This shouldn't be a decision women are forced to fear year after year, case after case. These health care decisions must be betwen women, families and their doctors, not judges nor lawmakers."

"Today’s decision is a victory for reproductive freedom, but this case should never have been heard," House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "Extreme MAGA Republican attempts to undermine the FDA – an independent scientific body – are unconscionable and unacceptable. These extreme, right-wing attempts to weaponize our judicial system must be crushed with the fierce urgency of now. House Democrats will continue to fight until reproductive freedom is the law of the land. We will not let the extremists win."

"For now, mifepristone is accessible where abortion is legal, but the threat to medication abortion has not gone away—far from it," Washington Sen. Patty Murray wrote on X. "Trump & his allies already have plans to do everything they can to rip away access to mifepristone & ban abortion nationwide if they return to power."

Read the full ruling below.