When the Supreme Court of the United States takes up the issue of abortion, many Americans sit up and take notice. It has been almost two years since the court with its conservative majority repealed the fundamental right to abortion. And so Tuesday's hearing on a similar issue attracted particular attention. In the barricade-protected court in Washington, the nine justices heard arguments on the abortion pill Mifepristone – sold in Germany under the name Mifegyne – and more specifically on the question of how easy or difficult it should be to access.

Sofia Dreisbach

North American political correspondent based in Washington.

The court's decision won't be known until the end of June, but Tuesday's hearing gave many abortion advocates a sigh of relief. During the two-hour session, it became clear that most judges were skeptical of the plaintiffs' arguments, regardless of their political leanings.

The conservative judge Neil Gorsuch was particularly harsh. The case appears to be a “prime example” of how a “small lawsuit” is turned into a nationwide matter. Like several other justices, Gorsuch questioned why the plaintiffs did not seek relief solely for their own situation.

In this context, the left-liberal judge Ketanji Brown Jackson pointed out that there was already a regulation for this case. Accordingly, healthcare workers are not required to perform services that are incompatible with their religious or moral worldview. Jackson said that instead of relying on this, the plaintiffs wanted to restrict access to the abortion pill for all patients.

Release during the pandemic

In Texas last March, Trump-nominated district judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an open abortion opponent, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, whereupon the drug was briefly withdrawn from the market. Abortion opponents, including doctors and Christian groups, are calling for mifepristone's approval to be withdrawn.

They claim that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ignored evidence of physical harm when approving it more than twenty years ago. However, American medical groups widely believe that mifepristone, which has been studied in many studies, is safe. After an urgent application from the Biden government, the Supreme Court finally lifted the block on the drug.

The justices' final decision will impact, among other things, whether the drug used in nearly two-thirds of American abortions can continue to be prescribed via telemedicine and sent by mail. Since 14 states banned abortions and seven more restricted them, medication abortions have become more common than ever in the United States.

The drug was approved for abortion up to the seventh week in 2000 and up to the tenth week in 2016, initially only for use under supervision, then during the pandemic in 2021 also for use at home after consultation via telemedicine.