Monday, April 15, 2024

Top 5 This Week

The Battle Over Mifepristone: How Trump and the GOP Aim to Criminalize Abortion Nationwide

Radical Anti-Abortion Groups Seek to Revive Archaic Comstock Act to Criminalize Abortion Nationwide.

Photo: Gage Skidmore

As the nation grapples with the fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a fierce battle continuing to rage over access to abortion, particularly through medication abortion. At the center of this conflict is mifepristone, a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for terminating pregnancies. The recent Supreme Court case, FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, has thrust this issue into the national spotlight, revealing the lengths to which anti-abortion groups will go to restrict reproductive rights.

The Supreme Court’s skepticism towards anti-abortion arguments in the mifepristone case this week may provide temporary relief for advocates of reproductive rights, but the battle is far from over. Republicans, emboldened by the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, are determined to ban abortion nationwide at the first opportunity they get. And with the 2024 presidential election looming, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The case itself, brought by a group of radical anti-abortion “doctors”, sought to challenge the FDA’s rules that have made it easier to access mifepristone, including through mail delivery. While the Supreme Court appeared skeptical of the plaintiffs’ standing to sue, the oral arguments laid bare the broader agenda of the anti-abortion movement: a relentless pursuit to ban all abortions nationwide.

At the center of this looming fight is former President Donald Trump, whose legacy will forever be stained by his relentless assault on reproductive freedoms. While he may attempt to present himself as a reasonable voice on abortion, his actions tell a vastly different story. It was Trump’s appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court that directly precipitated the disastrous overturning of Roe v. Wade, which stripped away the constitutional right to abortion.

Trump Abortion Ban

Make no mistake, Donald Trump is singularly responsible for opening the floodgates to the current onslaught of draconian abortion bans sweeping across the nation. His hand-picked justices fulfilled his long-held promise to the religious right, emboldening extremist groups to pursue their oppressive agenda of controlling women’s bodies and denying them the fundamental right to make decisions about their own reproductive health.

And the threat posed by Trump extends far beyond his catastrophic legacy on the Supreme Court. If re-elected, he is poised to sign into law the most severe nationwide restrictions on abortion access in modern history. The playbook crafted by the Heritage Foundation, a roadmap for dismantling reproductive rights, would undoubtedly become his administration’s bible, with Trump eagerly carrying out its cruel and radical mandates.

Comstock Act

Indeed, conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation have already drawn up a nearly 1,000-page playbook for the Trump to follow, with banning abortion as a top priority. It is a chilling plan to restrict abortion access, which includes directing the FDA to rescind its approval of mifepristone and banning the distribution of abortion pills through the mail–a reference to the Comstock Act, a 19th-century law that prohibits the mailing of abortion-related materials. 

The plaintiffs in the mifepristone case, the deceptively named Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, relied on far-fetched hypotheticals and ever-expanding notions of “conscience” to argue that the mere availability of the drug somehow injures anti-abortion doctors. As Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted, this stretches the idea of complicity to an absurd degree. Should a doctor who merely hands a bottle of water to an abortion provider also be complicit?

Furthermore, the potential revival of the Comstock Act as a means to ban abortion nationwide is a chilling reminder of the oppressive attitudes that once governed society. This draconian law, rooted in Victorian-era notions of sexual morality, represents a dark chapter in our nation’s history, one that should remain firmly in the past. To resuscitate it as a tool to criminalize abortion would be an egregious assault on the hard-won rights and freedoms that generations of women have fought to secure.

In reality, the Alliance’s arguments are a Trojan horse for imposing their insane fundamentalist views on all Americans, even in states where voters have repeatedly affirmed abortion rights. And the consequences would be deadly, with thousands of women likely to die from unsafe abortions or pregnancy complications that could have been prevented.

Thankfully, progressive states are fighting back with “shield laws” to protect abortion providers, while activists have successfully championed ballot initiatives to enshrine reproductive rights in state constitutions. But a nationwide ban would override all of these hard-fought victories due to the supremacy clause.

Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar highlighted the sweeping harms that the plaintiffs’ arguments would inflict, not just on women seeking abortions but on the FDA’s authority to regulate drugs based on science and the pharmaceutical industry’s need for uniform national standards. “Women who need access to medication abortion” would be the biggest losers, she stressed.

Some far-right activist justices, like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, seemed eager to use the Comstock Act as a backdoor path to banning abortion even without Congressional action. It’s a telling shift—in the past, anti-abortion activists at least tried to couch their arguments in terms of individual conscience and religious liberty. Now, they are openly advocating for imposing 19th century sexual mores on a 21st century America that has roundly rejected them.

The battle over abortion rights has reached a critical juncture, with the future of reproductive freedoms hanging in the balance. As anti-abortion groups like the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine advance absurd and dangerous arguments cloaked in the guise of “conscience,” it falls upon progressives to mount an unwavering defense of women’s fundamental rights. 

The looming threat of a nationwide abortion ban, potentially enacted through the cynical resurrection of archaic laws like the Comstock Act, must be confronted head-on. For if Donald Trump and his far right-wing allies regain power, they will stop at nothing to dismantle decades of hard-won progress, subjecting millions of women to dire threats to their health, autonomy, and very lives. 

In this fight, complacency is not an option. Only through sustained activism, legal challenges, and a resolute commitment to protecting reproductive justice can the vile right-wing agenda of the anti-abortion movement be thwarted. The stakes could not be higher, and the future of bodily autonomy rests upon our collective resolve.