Protestors flock to Supreme Court to rally for continued access to abortion pills

Abortion rights supporters gathered in front of the Supreme Court on Saturday in protest of a recent ruling by a federal judge that would have limited access to the abortion drug mifepristone.

The rally, organized by Planned Parenthood, comes just one day after Justice Samuel Alito temporarily blocked the lower court ruling. The protest is part of a nationwide series of demonstrations planned for the weekend in support of safeguarding access to abortion pills.

One protester in the crowd held a sign that reads: “If my abortion is going to get me a murder charge I may as well kill my rapist.” Another wore a costume from the TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Protesters march past the U.S. Capitol following a Planned Parenthood rally in support of abortion access outside the Supreme Court on Saturday, April. 15, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard)

A handful of anti-abortion counter-protesters were present as well.

They shouted statements like “Abortion is murder!” and “Abortion bans save lives!” At one point, the two sides began shouting at each other.

After the rally, some of the abortion rights protesters marched to Capitol Hill.

Last week, District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Trump, suspended the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decades-old approval of mifepristone, throwing access to medication abortion into question nationwide.

Mifepristone is the first of a two-drug regimen, collectively known as “the abortion pill,” approved by the FDA to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks. The second drug used in medication abortions, misoprostol, was not affected by the ruling.

Anti-abortion rights advocates were also present at the Planned Parenthood rally as access to abortion pills is in limbo across the country (Christina van Waasbergen/The Hill)

Medication abortions accounted for more than half of the abortions performed in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization.

The same day, a federal judge in Washington issued a contradictory ruling in a separate case, ordering the FDA to maintain the availability of mifepristone in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked part of the Texas judge’s ruling. It kept mifepristone on the market, but it maintained other parts of the ruling limiting the drug’s use to seven weeks of pregnancy and prohibiting it from being sent through the mail.

On Friday, Justice Alito placed an administrative stay on the judge’s entire ruling until Wednesday night to give the Supreme Court time to receive further briefing and decide whether to issue a longer stay.

A federal judge in Texas last week issued a ruling that said the FDA rushed their approval of an abortion drug over two decades ago. Protestors gathered outside of the Supreme Court to show support for safeguarding access to the drug mifepristone. (Christina van Waasbergen/The Hill)

Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an abortion provider who spoke at the rally, criticized the constantly shifting rulings, saying it creates “chaos” for health care providers.

“Providers are making impossible choices about whether or not they can give the medicine they know is safe and effective or follow the law,” Brandi said. “Providers are having to figure out and scramble to wait for the next ruling to figure out what they can give for people.”

“And that’s not how health care should be,” she added.

Melissa Wasser, Policy Counsel at the Washington, D.C., branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, also spoke at the rally, saying a single judge should not be able to determine access to a medication for the entire nation.

“Today it’s mifepristone. Tomorrow it could be a vaccine,” Wasser said. “It could be another medication or life-saving treatment.”

“And that means that every fringe group can just go pick a judge, and with the stroke of a pen, millions of people will not get the life-saving health care that they need,” she added.

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