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Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over

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Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over
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News

Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over

2024-06-14 07:30 Last Updated At:07:41

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court unanimously upheld access to a drug used in the majority of U.S. abortions on Thursday, though abortion opponents say the ruling won't be the last word in the fight over mifepristone.

The narrow decision came two years after the high court overturned the nationwide right to abortion. Rather than fully dive into the issue, the high court found that anti-abortion doctors lacked the legal right to sue.

That could leave an opening for anti-abortion states or other opponents to keep up the fight.

Some takeaways from the decision:

Not necessarily very much. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was part of the court majority two years ago to overturn Roe, employed a minimalist approach in the opinion that seemed designed to sidestep disagreements and arrive at a unanimous outcome.

The court found that the abortion opponents couldn't sue because they weren't actually injured by the medication, in part because federal laws protect doctors from performing abortions if they object.

The court did not address whether the FDA ultimately adhered to the law when it made changes to relax access to mifepristone, including allowing telehealth prescribing and mail delivery to patients. It said opponents could go elsewhere with their arguments, like to the president or the FDA.

Not a word was written about the Comstock Act, a 19th-century law that some abortion opponents think can be used to prevent mifepristone from being sent in the mail and was mentioned by two conservative justices during oral arguments.

The court’s ability to reach a unanimous decision was also surely made easier by the aggressive lower-court rulings that embraced much of the abortion opponents’ lawsuits and strayed from how courts typically decide whether someone can sue. This term, the Supreme Court is weighing several appeals of novel rulings by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Kavanaugh delivered a rebuke in the form of a brief but pointed civics lesson, saying a federal court is “not a legislative assembly, a town square, or a faculty lounge.”

The legal fight over mifepristone doesn't seem to be over.

Erin Hawley, the lead attorney for the abortion opponents, said she expects states who previously joined the lawsuit to continue the case. They could argue that while doctors may not have legal standing to challenge the drug, states do.

The attorney general in one of those states, Kris Kobach of Kansas, sounded a similar note, saying it is “essential” the case continues.

One potential problem for the states is that the justices refused to let them intervene in the Supreme Court case.

Abortion rights advocates have also said they expect the push to restrict mifepristone to continue.

Thursday's ruling sidesteps immediate seismic political effects, but the issue will still be center stage this election year.

Democrats said the Supreme Court made the right call on abortion medication, but warned that the ruling wouldn't end GOP threats to abortion rights. Vice President Kamala Harris said former President Donald Trump’s allies would still try to halt access to medication abortion and enact further restrictions, including a nationwide ban.

Patient Kaniya Harris, 21, said she was deeply relieved the medication allowed her to self-manage her abortion in Bethesda, Maryland, during her junior year in college in March 2023. She later demonstrated in front of the court to support access to the drug.

“We still have a ways to go,” she said. “We’re still pushing for abortion access ... . But at least this is a step in the right direction.”

Currently, only about half of states allow full access to the drug under the FDA’s framework, though statistics show people in restricted states have continued to receive the drug by mail.

Most Republican officials and candidates weren't as vocal. Trump, the presumed Republican nominee, has previously said he’d announce a position on medication abortion but hasn’t done so. He said in April that abortion should be left up to states, though this week he also urged an anti-abortion Christian group to stand up for “innocent life.”

Abortion will also be directly on the ballot in at least four states where voters are being asked to approve constitutional amendments that would assure abortion access. Similar measures could be before voters in several other states, too.

No. It's not even the last abortion case this term. The Supreme Court is also expected to hand down a decision in the next few weeks on whether federal law protects emergency abortions in states with strict bans.

The Biden administration argues that abortion care must be allowed in cases where a woman's health is at serious risk. It sued the state of Idaho, which maintains that its exception for life-saving care is enough.

Kavanaugh mentioned the high court's other abortion case in Thursday's ruling, as he pointed out that the Justice Department has acknowledged that doctors who are opposed to abortion don't have to take part under federal conscience laws.

The reference doesn't hint at how the court might rule in the case, said Sara Rosenbaum, a health policy professor at George Washington University. The fact that the court didn't release a decision in that case along with the mifepristone case could signal that the emergency abortion ruling “is going to be a much more difficult decision.”

Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Amanda Seitz in Washington, Geoff Mulvihill in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Christine Fernando in Chicago contributed to this report.

Anti-abortion protestors demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously preserved access to a medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year, in the court's first abortion decision since conservative justices overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Anti-abortion protestors demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously preserved access to a medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of all abortions in the U.S. last year, in the court's first abortion decision since conservative justices overturned Roe v. Wade two years ago. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over

Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over

The Supreme Court building is seen on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The Supreme Court building is seen on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over

Takeaways from Supreme Court ruling: Abortion pill still available but opponents say fight not over

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Bronny James has gotten the message from his father and his coach: His transition to the Los Angeles Lakers is going to take some time and a lot of work.

And Friday only further proved what they've been saying.

James, the No. 55 overall pick in last month’s draft, struggled from the field and scored eight points as the Lakers lost to the Houston Rockets 99-80 on the opening day of NBA Summer League.

Bronny’s dad, LeBron James, wasn’t there — he was with the U.S. Olympic team in Abu Dhabi, having arrived there earlier Friday to prepare for a pair of exhibitions next week as the Americans continuing ramping up for the Paris Games.

But Bronny’s mom, Savannah, was in the crowd, which was sold out and mostly filled with fans wearing Lakers purple and gold. They roared when Bronny James was introduced, as was expected.

“The atmosphere, they came to support,” James said.

James' final stats: 3 for 14 from the field, 0 for 8 on 3-pointers, five rebounds, two steals and three turnovers in 27 minutes. Through three games this summer, the first two coming at the California Classic — a smaller summer league in San Francisco — he's shooting 23% and has missed all 12 of his tries from 3-point range.

“The shot hasn't been falling,” James said.

Lakers coach JJ Redick spoke with ESPN during the second quarter Friday and in the on-air interview said that he has told Bronny James to focus on defense and what will be an intense player development program that the team will create for him.

“He had a heart procedure last year, up-and-down freshman year, obviously going through the pre-draft process, there’s a conditioning element to being able to play that way defensively,” Redick said. “But overall, we like what we’ve seen in practice. We like what we’ve seen in Summer League.”

LeBron James — who played in summer leagues at Orlando and Boston as a rookie — has already said that he wants his son to remember that the stats, good, bad or otherwise, don't matter whatsoever this summer. He just wants to see growth and learning.

"The only thing that matters is him getting better and stacking days," he said.

Bronny James had six of the Lakers’ first 13 points on Friday — a layup, two free throws and then a dunk where the guard who is perhaps a bit generously listed at 6-foot-2 showed off the athleticism by getting up from under the basket for a jam.

He didn't score again until midway through the fourth quarter, getting a driving basket on a nifty move — starting with a left-hand dribble down the lane, then extending and getting a floater to fall with his right hand.

James’ first two games at the California Classic didn’t lead to much in the way of stats. He shot 3 for 12 from the floor, 1 for 4 from the foul line, went 0 for 4 on 3-pointers. He did average 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks in 25 minutes per game in those two contests.

“I’m excited about Bronny,” Lakers forward Anthony Davis said earlier in the week. “It’s a cool experience. Never been done before, never happened in basketball so it’s a cool experience to have him on our team and just kind of see him grow.”

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

Los Angeles Laker guard Bronny James Jr. (9) dunks against Houston Rockets center Orlando Robinson (59) during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 12, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Los Angeles Laker guard Bronny James Jr. (9) dunks against Houston Rockets center Orlando Robinson (59) during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 12, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Los Angeles Laker guard Bronny James Jr. (9) looks on during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, July 12, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Los Angeles Laker guard Bronny James Jr. (9) looks on during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, July 12, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Los Angeles Laker guard Bronny James Jr. (9) drives the ball against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 12, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Los Angeles Laker guard Bronny James Jr. (9) drives the ball against the Houston Rockets during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Friday, July 12, 2024, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

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