Abortion Pill Dispute Centers on Central Question: Who Can Sue?

The future of access to abortion pills may turn on a basic legal question: Who has a right to bring a lawsuit?

Among the anti-abortion doctors involved in the case before the Supreme Court seeking to restrict availability of the pill is Dr. Christina Francis, who leads one of the anti-abortion groups suing the Food and Drug Administration to curtail distribution of the drug, mifepristone. She says she has experienced moral injury in treating patients who have taken the medication.

Left unclear is whether that reaches a necessary threshold to bring a lawsuit in federal court — that the plaintiffs would suffer concrete harm if mifepristone remained widely available. Lawyers call this requirement standing.

The F.D.A. “is forcing me to be complicit in an action that I have a moral objection to,” Dr. Francis, who is the head of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in an interview on Friday.

Those statements are echoed by other anti-abortion doctors involved in the lawsuit, including an Indiana doctor and state legislator who has called for stronger punishments for abortion providers and a California doctor who helped pioneer an abortion pill reversal method that has not been supported by scientific evidence.

None of the anti-abortion doctors are required to prescribe the drugs or regularly treat abortion patients, but they say that they might encounter such patients in emergency rooms and that even treating side effects could cause them hardship. That, they say, would subject them to “enormous stress and pressure,” forcing them to choose between their consciences and their professional obligations.

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