By Jonathon Van Maren
In a surprise ruling on Tuesday, January 12, the Supreme Court reinstated long-standing Food and Drug Administration restrictions which require women to visit a doctor in person in order to procure abortion pills. During the summer of 2020, federal courts had blocked the FDA rule on the basis that the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for women to obtain the abortion drugs. The lower court ruling had been upheld in December, with the Trump Administration subsequently requesting the reinstatement of the rule. The timing of the decision came as a surprise to SCOTUS watchers.
Interestingly, the ruling has abortion activists concerned for the future. With more abortion cases coming down the pike, Tuesday’s decision saw a 6-3 split, with the Supreme Court’s three liberals dissenting and John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barret all voting in favor. This is the first time that Justice Barrett has ruled on an abortion case, and although her position is no surprise, it is encouraging.
According to CNN contributor and law professor Steve Vladeck, the ruling bodes ill for Roe v. Wade. “Because the Biden administration is eight days away, the odds that this FDA rule is on the books that much longer seems pretty slim,” Vladeck told CNN. “The much bigger import of tonight’s ruling is the harbinger it seems to provide of how the conservative majority is going to approach abortion cases.”
Indeed, both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan indicated their relief at Biden’s impending presidency, stating in their dissent that they hope Biden will “exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times.”
Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion chain, called the ruling “an egregious step backwards for health equity” and announced that they were “calling on President-elect Biden’s administration to issue an Executive Order on Day One that ensures the suspension of this medically unnecessary, indefensible restriction on medication abortion.”
In addition to this demand, Planned Parenthood is calling on Biden to kick off his presidency with a laundry list of payback policies. They are asking for the “ending of unnecessary restrictions on abortion and birth control,” the immediate rescinding of the Mexico City Policy, the removal of the Title X Gag Rule denying federal funds to organizations which commit abortions, and an end to the Hyde and Helm Amendments, which ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions. It appears likely that a Biden-Harris Administration will be happy to deliver on all that and much more.
In the meantime, Joe Biden continues to trumpet both his Catholic faith as well as his unprecedented commitment to feticide, which is only matched by that of his carnivorous running mate, Kamala Harris. We will soon find out whether the Supreme Court proves to be the last line of defence for pre-born children in America—or if the Court will once again deliver betrayal and disappointment as it has so many times before.