fbpx

FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on access to an abortion pill in two combined cases—FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and Danco Laboratories, LLC v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. These cases are significant legal battles challenging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of mifepristone (i.e., the “abortion pill”), a drug commonly used in chemical abortion procedures. In these cases, pro-life doctors have contested the FDA’s approval of mifepristone and its efforts to increase access to this abortion pill.

Though initially challenging the original FDA approval of the drug, the case has now been limited to challenging the subsequent actions of the FDA that removed important safety precautions from the drug’s usage. The lawsuits aim to reinstate these protections for women across the United States, likely significantly impacting the accessibility of chemical abortion (also known as “medication abortion”) nationwide. 

What are those cases about?

In 2016, the FDA:

  • expanded the availability of chemical abortion drugs from 7 weeks of pregnancy up to 10 weeks of pregnancy,
  • changed the dosing regimen,
  • reduced the number of in-person doctor visits from three to one,
  • expanded who could prescribe and administer chemical abortion drugs beyond medical doctors,
  • and eliminated the requirement for prescribers to report nonfatal complications from chemical abortion drugs. 

Then, in 2021, the FDA removed the requirement of in-person dispensing, allowing for abortion pills to be accessed through the mail and telemedicine without a woman ever seeing a doctor in person.

These cases are centered around challenging those actions by the FDA in hopes of reinstating such precautions. Both cases have drawn extensive support and opposition from various groups, including pharmaceutical companies, medical organizations, government officials, rights groups, and experts who have submitted amicus briefs in favor of maintaining or ending the FDA’s approval of mifepristone for medication abortion. (The ERLC submitted an amicus brief in favor of the plaintiffs.)

The U.S. Supreme Court hearing oral arguments on these cases marks a critical moment in the ongoing legal battle surrounding access to medication abortion in the U.S.

What are oral arguments?

Oral arguments are not a requirement for a Supreme Court case. In fact, only about 53–70% of cases accepted by the court each year include oral arguments. But oral arguments provide the public ​​​their first glimpse into what issues or concerns the justices consider most relevant. Observers of the court must be cautious, though, because it’s difficult to impossible to tell how a case will be decided based only on this process.

  • During oral arguments, an attorney for each side of a case is given the opportunity to make a presentation to the court and answer questions posed by the justices.
  • Before this process begins, each side in the case submitted a written legal argument outlining each party’s points of law.
  • The justices will have read these briefs prior to argument and are thoroughly familiar with the case, its facts, and the legal positions that each party is advocating.

As the Supreme Court website notes, “The arguments are an opportunity for the Justices to ask questions directly of the attorneys representing the parties to the case, and for the attorneys to highlight arguments that they view as particularly important.” 

What issues were raised by the justices?

The Supreme Court justices primarily directed their inquiries towards two key aspects of the case:

  • first, whether the physicians who initiated the legal action against the FDA had demonstrated potential harm resulting from the agency’s decisions, given them standing to bring this challenge,
  • and second, whether a causal link could be established between the alleged damages and the FDA’s relaxation of the regulations.

The majority of the argument focused on the issue of whether the doctors who brought the case had proven they were harmed by the FDA’s actions. 

  • Chief Justice John Roberts raised the question of whether the courts had the option to grant limited relief that would solely impact the physicians directly involved in the legal case, rather than pursuing a more expansive approach that would implicate the FDA on a broader scale.
  • Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked whether federal law provides some conscience protections for doctors who object to providing an abortion on moral and religious grounds, to which Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar replied, “Yes, we think that federal conscience protections provide broad coverage here.” 
  • Justice Amy Coney Barrett questioned how the doctors who brought the case could be harmed since it didn’t appear that either physician had participated in the procedure.
  • Justice Neil Gorsuch said, “This case seems like a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly.” 
  • In contrast, Justice Samuel Alito asked who would have the ability to sue the FDA in this case. “Is there anybody who can sue and get a judicial ruling on whether what FDA did was lawful?” he asked. “And maybe what they did was perfectly lawful. But shouldn’t somebody be able to challenge that in court?” 

What is the expected outcome based on the reaction of the justices?

Should the court conclude that the doctors lack the necessary legal standing to pursue the lawsuit, it holds the authority to dismiss the case in its entirety without rendering a judgment on the legality of the FDA’s actions when it eased the restrictions surrounding the acquisition of mifepristone.

Observers of the hearing seem to agree that there did not seem to be a majority of five justices who would be willing to issue a sweeping decision that would significantly weaken the FDA’s authority to allow mifepristone to be sent through the mail or without a woman ever seeing a doctor in person.

What happens next?

The court will now spend the next few months writing and deliberating about this case. The final decision will likely come sometime in June. Regardless of how this case is decided, the ERLC will press forward in our fight against the predatory abortion industry and for the cause of life.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24