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Supreme Court Unanimously Dismisses Abortion Pill Case, Cites Lack of Standing

 June 14, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that pro-life doctors lack standing to challenge the Biden administration's abortion pill mandate but opened a path for Republican-led states to pursue legal challenges.

This decision underscores the principle of legal standing under Article III of the Constitution but simultaneously signifies a victory for defenders of religious liberty by tangentially affirming that pro-life doctors cannot be compelled to participate in abortion. as Breitbart reports.

FDA Regulation Under Scrutiny

The Supreme Court's 9-0 ruling centered on whether the plaintiffs had the legal standing to sue.

Pro-life doctors and associations argued that the FDA's relaxed regulations on mifepristone, implemented in 2016 and 2021, violated the Administrative Procedure Act. However, the court concluded that the plaintiffs did not meet the requirements for standing under Article III.

The FDA had eased access to the abortion pill mifepristone during the administrations of Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden. These regulatory changes were challenged by several pro-life doctors and associations who do not prescribe or use mifepristone. The court emphasized that the FDA does not mandate these doctors to act in any way regarding mifepristone.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the court, highlighted that the plaintiffs needed to demonstrate a personal stake in the dispute. "The plaintiffs want FDA to make mifepristone more difficult for other doctors to prescribe and for pregnant women to obtain. Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue," Kavanaugh wrote.

Importance of Article III Standing

The concept of standing is integral to the separation of powers. To establish standing, plaintiffs must show an injury in fact, causation, and redressability. This ruling reiterated that standing requires plaintiffs to have a direct and personal stake in the outcome of the dispute.

Kavanaugh further elaborated on this principle, stating, "For a plaintiff to get in the federal courthouse door and obtain a judicial determination of what the governing law is, the plaintiff cannot be a mere bystander but must have a personal stake in the dispute."

Separation of Powers Upheld

The court's decision reinforces the notion that only those with a tangible and specific injury can bring a case to federal court. This ensures that courts do not issue opinions on legal issues without a direct and personal impact on the plaintiffs involved.

"By limiting who can sue, the standing requirement implements the Framers’ concept of the proper -- and properly limited -- role of the courts in a democratic society," Kavanaugh wrote.

EMTALA and Conscience Protections

Pro-life doctors had expressed concerns that the abortion pill mandate could force them to provide mifepristone in emergency rooms, potentially violating their conscience rights. However, the court clarified that the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) does not require doctors to provide abortions or related treatments against their conscience.

"The plaintiffs have not identified any instances where a doctor was required, notwithstanding conscience objections, to perform an abortion or to provide other abortion-related treatment that violated the doctor’s conscience," the court stated.

States Granted Legal Standing

While the court ruled against the pro-life doctors' standing, it opened the door for states like Missouri, Kansas, and Idaho to challenge the abortion pill mandate.

These states may have the necessary standing to sue, allowing them to pursue legal challenges to the FDA's regulations.

Broader Implications of the Ruling

This decision highlights the rigorous standards for establishing standing in federal court cases. The ruling reinforces the separation of powers and ensures that only those directly affected by a regulation can challenge it in court.

"By requiring the plaintiff to show an injury in fact, Article III standing screens out plaintiffs who might have only a general legal, moral, ideological, or policy objection to a particular government action," Kavanaugh noted.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that pro-life doctors lack standing to challenge the Biden administration's abortion pill mandate reaffirms the importance of the separation of powers and the principle of standing under Article III.

While the plaintiffs were unsuccessful, the decision allows states like Missouri, Kansas, and Idaho to still pursue their legal challenges.

This case underscores the constitutional requirement for a direct and personal stake in federal court disputes and ensures that courts do not opine on issues without a specific legal impact on the parties involved.