SCOTUS Abortion Pill Decision Looms Over 2024 Election

SCOTUS Abortion Pill Decision Looms Over 2024 Election

The upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the FDA's modifications to mifepristone's approval is poised to have a significant impact on the 2024 election, featuring President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

During Tuesday's proceedings, the court deliberated on FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a case focused on whether the limited deregulation of mifepristone violated the Administrative Procedures Act.

Of crucial concern is whether the court will uphold the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit's decision to rescind the FDA’s 2021 approval of mifepristone for prescription without a doctor's visit. This decision expanded access to chemical abortions through telemedicine consultations and mail delivery of mifepristone.

The final ruling, expected in June, is likely to significantly influence the outcomes of the upcoming presidential and congressional elections in the fall.

Mifepristone by the numbers

Electoral dynamics shifted significantly after the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022, with abortion access becoming a focal point. Democrats successfully countered anticipated losses in the 2022 midterm elections by championing the protection of abortion rights post the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, which nullified Roe.

Numerous states conducted ballot initiatives concerning abortion access, leading to the incorporation of abortion rights into state constitutions. States like Ohio, California, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, and Vermont enacted measures to safeguard abortion access or thwart efforts to curtail it.

Heading into the 2024 elections, abortion rights amendments are slated for ballots in at least eight other states, making it a prominent issue in pivotal swing states like Arizona and Florida.

Amanda Roberti, a political science professor at San Francisco State University, noted that while the mifepristone case will likely impact voter sentiment in the 2024 elections, its magnitude may not match the aftermath of the Dobbs decision.

"People are perhaps paying slightly less attention to it compared to Dobbs," Roberti remarked to the Washington Examiner. "However, if a decision is reached in the summer, it will be fresh in people's minds, similar to Dobbs, and may draw considerable attention to the issue."

Democratic messaging fills the vacuum of Republican silence

Democratic political strategist Brad Bannon highlighted that despite the GOP's emphasis on the medical risks associated with mifepristone, he views abortion as a winning issue for Democrats.

"It greatly benefits Democratic candidates, and the more Republicans discuss the issue, the more favorable it becomes for Democrats," Bannon stated. "Whenever reproductive rights are discussed, whether in Alabama or by former President Trump, it serves as a reminder to voters, especially swing voters in suburban areas, of the Republican stance against choice."

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC), chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, recently urged House Republicans to clarify their abortion stances and not avoid the topic.

Hudson's perspective is that the lack of discussion among Republicans about abortion has allowed Democrats to control the narrative.

Various strategists and leaders advocating for abortion restrictions echoed these sentiments during discussions with the Washington Examiner.

"I completely agree that this is primarily a messaging challenge," said Emily Benavides, a Republican strategist involved in supporting Gov. Doug Burgum's (R-ND) 2024 presidential campaign. "It's a branding issue. We've been hesitant to clearly articulate our position on this matter for too long, leading Democrats to define us with the most extreme views, which may not align with the candidate's actual stance."

"We strive to approach these complex situations with respect while staying true to our belief that every life is valuable," said Timothy Head, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "While some pro-life groups may be divisive, and there are certainly pro-choice groups with the same tendency, we aim to facilitate a healing process as much as possible."

Head mentioned Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sam Brown's wife, Amy Brown, sharing her abortion experience and subsequent healing journey as an example of the compassionate approach needed in discussing the abortion debate.

"I believe there are empathetic ways to discuss this narrative without being overly rigid or instructional," Head added. "That's our preferred strategy from a messaging standpoint."

A fledgling Republican consensus

The issue is further complicated by the lack of consensus among Republicans regarding their stance on gestational age limits for abortion, the approach to contraceptives, and strategies to counter Democratic messaging.

During the early primary phase, Republican presidential candidates were divided between advocating for six-week and 15-week abortion bans. Anti-abortion groups like SBA Pro-Life America initially supported candidates endorsing the earlier standard.

Recently, Trump hinted at supporting a 15-week gestation national abortion restriction, which he deemed "very reasonable." His recent stance emphasizes his role as a mediator aiming to find a middle ground on this contentious issue.

Karoline Leavitt, Trump's campaign national press secretary, stated in February that the presumptive Republican nominee would engage in negotiations with both sides to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Public opinion polls indicate that although voters express support for abortion access, there is also significant backing for gestational age limits on the procedure.

According to a Gallup poll from July 2023, 69% of respondents favored legal abortion in the first trimester, while only 37% supported legality in the second trimester. Pre-Dobbs polling showed that 48% of voters endorsed 15-week limitations.

Abortion as healthcare

Sarah Chamberlain, the president and CEO of the Republican Main Street Partnership, expressed her hope that the Supreme Court would not overturn the approval of mifepristone, considering its potential impact on the 2024 elections.

"I hope they choose not to outlaw it because if they do, it could greatly affect the 2024 election," Chamberlain stated. "We need to proceed cautiously for the November elections in 2024. The Supreme Court's decision is uncertain."

Democrats are relying on public sentiment regarding abortion to potentially bolster Biden against Trump in their presidential rematch. They argue that ongoing debates within the Republican Party regarding the beginning of life at conception could influence other policy decisions regarding contraception and IVF.

Chamberlain cautioned that while she lacks data to support Democrats' arguments, the GOP should not overlook the critical importance of abortion in the 2024 elections, alongside voters' economic concerns.

"This is a significant issue for women, and our party must not underestimate its importance," Chamberlain emphasized regarding abortion and related policy considerations. "While we don't have to be pro-choice, we must be consistent in our pro-life stance, including supporting IVF, contraception, and women's access to necessary medical care. This is a healthcare issue for women."

Herbie Newell, president and executive director of the evangelical child welfare and adoption agency Lifeline Children's Services, opposed the notion of treating abortion as a healthcare argument.

"I am pro-life because I believe abortion is not beneficial for women and, ultimately, harms children," Newell stated firmly. "I do not view it as healthcare."

Strengthening the Democratic position

Democrats are anticipated to focus on promoting abortion medication even if the Supreme Court permits mifepristone to continue being prescribed via mail.

"Democrats with a clear party platform advocating abortion access are likely to view this as a victory, using it to energize their base," Newell remarked.

Roberti, the political scientist at San Francisco State, highlighted the substantial support for mifepristone access, the backlash during the 2022 midterm elections, and the outcomes of abortion ballot initiatives as concerning signs for the GOP.

"People strongly advocate for reproductive healthcare access, including abortion, and are against any reduction in access," she explained. "Republicans have faced negative repercussions due to this stance."

Democrats argue that abortion access should be decided by women and their healthcare providers. Biden's reelection campaign criticized Trump's abortion remarks even before his official nomination by the GOP, continuing the critique after Trump expressed interest in a 15-week abortion restriction.

The Biden campaign released a statement from Amanda Zurawski, who sued Texas after complications during pregnancy due to confusion caused by the state's total abortion ban.

"My life has been profoundly impacted by the consequences of overturning Roe," Zurawski stated. "I nearly lost my life due to inadequate medical care, affecting my future ability to have children."

The Supreme Court's decision on mifepristone could mobilize support for Democrats, unless the GOP develops an effective counterstrategy.

During a press call, Biden's campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez reiterated the president's commitment to safeguarding abortion access.

"If Congress proposes a national abortion ban, President Biden will veto it," Chavez Rodriguez affirmed. "Reproductive healthcare decisions should be made by women and their healthcare providers, not politicians or the government."

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