Experts preview U.S. Supreme Court’s abortion pill case

U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments over abortion pill Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) senior counsel Kellie Fiedorek (center) and Elizabeth Gillette (right), who survived severe complications from a chemical abortion, spoke with EWTN News Nightly anchor Tracy Sabol about the case. | Credit: Screenshot/EWTN News Nightly

The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday regarding the Biden administration’s alleged deficient safeguards surrounding use of the chemical abortion drug mifepristone and the risk the drug poses to women.

Among the safeguards, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine case could see the restoration of the initial requirement of in-person doctor visits before prescription of the pill as well as the initial seven-week limit on use of the abortion pill. 

In the case, the FDA challenged an August 2023 federal court ruling that affirmed that the FDA did not follow proper testing and safety protocols when it approved the abortion drug in 2000. 

In 2021, the FDA eliminated the in-person doctor visit originally required to obtain the drug, allowing the abortion pill to be prescribed via telemedicine and distributed through the mail. Earlier this year, drug stores such as Walgreens began selling the abortion pill over the counter

Elizabeth Gillette, who survived severe complications from a chemical abortion, is set to testify about the lack of sufficient safeguards surrounding the drug and spoke with “EWTN News Nightly” anchor Tracy Sabol about the case.

In the interview, Gillette shared her experience with a chemical abortion — severe bleeding, labor pains, and seeing her dead child — that inspired her to testify against the lack of safeguards. 

“I was not properly prepared for the powerful drug that is the abortion pill. I suffered devastating side effects,” Gillette explained.

Chemical abortions involve a two-pill regimen consisting of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol. This type of abortion cuts off the nutrients necessary for an unborn child to develop and then expels him or her from the womb. 

“I found myself on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood until I ended up expelling the entire amniotic sac with my baby — a recognizable baby inside,” she continued. “The trauma from this horrific experience still follows me today in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

“This is nothing like what they told me would happen,” Gillette said. “It was minimized and the care was subpar.”

Chemical abortions account for over half of all U.S. abortions, according to a recent study.

Senior Counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Kellie Fiedorek also spoke about the case in an interview with Sabol.

“The FDA recklessly removed its original safeguards that provide women with in-person, ongoing care when taking abortion drugs,” she said. “Because they removed those, they put women’s lives in danger.”

“We sued the FDA on behalf of doctors to hold them accountable, and we’re asking the Supreme Court to reinstate those vital safeguards to protect the health and safety of women across this country,” Fiodorek indicated.

“The FDA’s own label says that roughly one in 25 women who take these drugs will end up in the emergency room,” Fiedorek continued. “So regardless of what people’s beliefs might be about abortion, we should all agree that women deserve the ongoing in-person care of a doctor when they’re taking high-risk drugs.”

The FDA first approved mifepristone for abortion in 2000 but included some restrictions on dispensation to prevent severe side effects. One restriction was that the drug had to be prescribed and dispensed in person.

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That changed in 2021 when the FDA decided that the in-person requirement put a “burden on the health care delivery system.”

Over the years, other restrictions on the drug have also been removed. In 2016, the FDA determined that the drug can be used when a woman is pregnant with a child at 70 days’ gestation. Before 2016, the gestational limit was seven weeks. The FDA also decided in 2016 that non-physicians could prescribe the pill. 

In August 2023, the Fifth Circuit Court affirmed a lower court ruling that the FDA must reinstate the restrictions on the mifepristone pill that were in place before 2016. Those restrictions are currently on hold pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision. 

America’s Catholic bishops expressed concern about chemical abortions. In a February statement, the bishops noted that if the FDA policies are allowed to remain in place, “potentially harmful drugs [will] be mailed directly to girls and women who did not see a medical professional in person and may be injured or killed without public knowledge of the cause.”

“I would like everybody to remember that this is an extremely powerful drug, and women deserve ... to be treated with respect and with the safeguards in place,” Gillette said. “We’re worth it.”

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