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ACLU Cautions Supreme Court That Lower Court Abortion Pill Rulings Depended on “Patently Unreliable Witnesses”

ACLU Cautions Supreme Court That Lower Court Abortion Pill Rulings Depended on "Patently Unreliable Witnesses"
Credits: CBS News

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a warning to the Supreme Court, asserting that recent lower court decisions in a high-profile case regarding a commonly used abortion pill were influenced by “patently unreliable witnesses” and “ideologically tainted junk science.”

In a brief submitted to the Supreme Court, the ACLU, in collaboration with the Center for Reproductive Rights and The Lawyering Project, argued that the lower courts, in their rulings related to the drug mifepristone, replaced the scientific judgment of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with unverified claims from anti-abortion rights medical associations and doctors concerning alleged harms associated with medication abortion.

These groups contended that the acceptance of such claims by the judges represents an anomaly, emphasizing that other courts dealing with abortion-related cases routinely discredited the evidence provided by these anti-abortion rights doctors, highlighting a lack of scientific integrity.

ACLU Cautions Supreme Court That Lower Court Abortion Pill Rulings Depended on "Patently Unreliable Witnesses"

Abortion pill (Credits: CBS News)

Supporting the Biden administration in the mifepristone dispute, the ACLU, along with the Center for Reproductive Rights and The Lawyering Project, underscored the significance of the Supreme Court’s responsibility in scrutinizing the evidence and conclusions presented by the lower courts.

The arguments are set to be heard on March 26, and until the Supreme Court reaches a final decision, access to mifepristone will remain unchanged. The anticipated decision, expected by the end of June, will have nationwide implications, even in states where abortion is legal.

Julia Kaye, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, emphasized the need for a critical examination of witnesses and research cited in the lower courts’ opinions.

She highlighted the importance of assessing whether the evidence adequately supports the conclusions reached by the 5th Circuit, particularly concerning the plaintiffs’ standing and the court’s authority to override the FDA’s scientific judgments.

The concerns raised by the ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, and The Lawyering Project extend to the testimony provided by certain doctors involved in the case, casting doubt on the credibility of their assertions.

The friend-of-the-court brief expressed apprehensions about the testimony of six doctors, highlighting instances where other courts had criticized their claims in cases involving abortion restrictions.

The brief particularly cited Dr. Donna Harrison, whose opinions were questioned for lacking scientific support, and Dr. Ingrid Skop, whose testimony was rejected as inaccurate and overstated.

Despite these concerns, the groups argued that the lower courts relied on the say-so of these witnesses, overshadowing the FDA’s expert assessment and the broader medical consensus regarding mifepristone’s safety.

In addition to concerns about witness credibility, the ACLU and its partners criticized the lower courts for relying on “glaringly flawed studies” that allegedly mischaracterized research and made sweeping generalizations about the impact of abortion.

The groups contested the validity of certain studies that were referenced in the lower courts’ decisions, arguing that they distorted data and drew unsubstantiated conclusions about the mental health impacts of medication abortion.

The ACLU and its collaborators underscored the importance of a thorough review by the Supreme Court, emphasizing the need to assess the evidence’s reliability and the scientific process’s integrity in reaching conclusions about mifepristone.

The friend-of-the-court brief questioned the lower court’s reliance on contested studies and urged a careful examination of the scientific basis for the restrictions imposed on mifepristone.

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