High Noon for Reproductive Rights at the Supreme Court

Crowds disbursed from the Supreme Court just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday after the Court heard oral arguments in the case of FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which would drastically limit access to the abortion pill mifepristone if the Court were to uphold the Fifth Circuit Court decision to do just that.

Activists and organizers for reproductive rights showed up in full force to advocate for reproductive autonomy, vowing that access would remain unimpeded as the Court deliberated over substantial restrictions on medication abortion.

Nancy Cárdenas Peña, campaign director of Abortion on Our Own Terms, traveled from the Rio Grande Valley, on the border between Texas and Mexico, to advance her organization’s “national campaign to talk about self-managed abortion and the social and cultural advocacy behind it.” A handful of her team members were in D.C. for the demonstration to represent their members from across the country.

Nancy Cárdenas Peña, campaign director of Abortion on Our Own Terms. (Bonnie Stabile)

Representatives of online abortion pill provider AidAccess “came from not only all over the country, but all over the world to be here” during the Court’s hearing, according to Sarah McNeely, who said that AidAccess founder Dr. Rebecca Gomperts flew in from the Netherlands for the occasion. The group had a few members who “participated in the demonstration by providing telehealth from Washington State and New York this morning,” while two others present “took mifepristone outside of the Court … just to demonstrate how safe, effective and easy it can be.”

Underscoring their assertion that people are going to continue to have access to medical abortions no matter what—whether through “robots or air drops or mail,” AidAccess deployed endearing “Roe-bots” which delivered the drug to those in the crowd.

Gomperts, who founded the organization in 2018 and is known for finding “innovative ways to circumvent abortion restrictions worldwide” said that “last year, 85,000 women worked with order-by-mail abortion provider Aid Access to obtain the medication” and of those “50,000 live in states with abortion restrictions.”

Roe-bot” used to deliver mifepristone. (Bonnie Stabile)

Skye Perryman, president and CEO of Democracy Forward, spoke about “having the honor to represent doctors and patients and young people … and GenBioPro, the nation’s only manufacturer of generic mifepristone” helping to further the mission of making medication abortion accessible and affordable to all.

Democracy Forward “provides legal representation and expert counsel free of charge” and describes itself as “a national legal organization that advances democracy and social progress through litigation, policy and public education, and regulatory engagement.”

“The Supreme Court has a simple decision before it today,” said Destiny Lopez, acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. “Follow the scientific evidence and over two decades of safe and effective use of mifepristone, or ignore it. Let’s be clear, the only outcome that respects facts and science is maintaining full access to mifepristone.”

In 2023, Lopez said, Guttmacher research found that almost two-thirds of abortions were medication abortions, most of which use the two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol. Lopez called the case before the Court “built on a foundation of junk science and court-shopping for a judge who the plaintiffs knew would ignore facts and evidence.”

Rachel Fey, vice president of policy and strategic partnerships at Power to Decide, where she is responsible for their non-partisan federal and state public policy program, spoke on behalf of “Power to Decide and the millions of people who turn to AbortionFinder.Org to find out where they can get abortion care.” In the post-Roe landscape, Fey pointed out that the decision before the court could restrict abortion access in all 50 states, not just the nearly half of all states where it is already banned or severely restricted. Further, Fay said, the burden would not fall equally, but exacerbate existing structural racism and disproportionately impact the most marginalized communities.

Mifepristone has been used safely and effectively by more than five million people since it was approved 23 years ago, according to Fey. But the case under consideration could “undermine decades of research and upend the FDA’s scientific judgment,” not only where mifepristone is concerned, but also “put every approved medication… under threat.”

The penultimate speaker of the day’s protests and testimonials was Tamika Middleton, Managing Director of the Women’s March, who had been on site since 6:30 am. Middleton said we are in a critical moment, where “attacks on democracy, on freedom, on marginalized communities, have continued to escalate to a fever pitch over the last several years,” encompassing attacks on LGBTQ folks, access to education, voting, the ability to protest and our rights to control our own bodies.”

Middleton noted that “our opposition has used every available tool to leverage their attacks” on reproductive rights, including elevating folks to office at every level, changing local, state and federal policies, and reshaping the judiciary to advance their agendas. But, Middleton said, “we will continue to stand up and make sure that people get access to the full spectrum of reproductive care, including abortion care.”

Outside the Supreme Court on March 26, some in the crowd wore familiar pink pussy hats. (Bonnie Stabile)

J.J. Straight, National Campaigns Director for Reproductive Rights at the ACLU, gave the final remarks of the day outside of the court. On April 24th, she said, the Supreme Court “will hear another case… where they will be considering states that have extreme abortion laws that block access to emergency care for people experiencing pregnancy complications… in places like Idaho and Texas…for folks in the most dire circumstances where it is literally a matter of life and death and we will not stand for it.”

Straight led a chant of “We Will Be Back!” until a loud recording of Beyonce’s “You Won’t Break My Soul” signaled the end of the day’s testimonials, with some members of the crowd breaking into spontaneous dance.

Demonstrators breaking into spontaneous dance while Beyonce blares over loudspeakers at the conclusion of the speakers just before 1 p.m. (Bonnie Stabile)

Dozens of U.S Capitol Police, on foot and in the USCP Bicycle Response Unit, assembled around the Supreme Court during the peaceful and upbeat demonstrations, which were overwhelmingly made up of proponents of reproductive rights in opposition to the restrictions on mifepristone that were the subject of the day’s oral arguments before the court.

In total, Capitol Police arrested 13 protesters on Tuesday who were demonstrating outside the Supreme Court.

The Court will issue its ruling by the summer—just months before the fall election, when voters will decide on the next U.S. president and who will represent them in Congress. 

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Bonnie Stabile, Ph.D., is associate professor and associate dean for student and academic affairs at the Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, where she founded and directs the Gender and Policy Center. You can follow her on Twitter @bstabile1.