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US supreme court expected to rule on abortion pill access lawsuit – live | US politics

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It’s possible that today ends with a supreme court decision allowing abortion medication mifepristone to stay available at pharmacies nationwide. Or, the court’s conservative majority could again display its willingness to throttle reproductive care access and allow an appeals court decision reimposing restrictions on the drug to go into effect.

Here’s a look at four ways the ruling on the mifepristone case could go, from Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law:

Here we go again:

Four possible #mifepristone rulings from #SCOTUS today:

1) Grant stay pending appeal;

2) Deny stay pending appeal;

3) Weird mixed ruling; or

4) No ruling.

(1) means no change to mifepristone access anytime soon; (2)-(4) mean big changes starting Saturday.

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 21, 2023

It’s also *possible* that Justice Alito extends the administrative stay *again* (what happened on Wednesday), but that seems exceedingly unlikely.

One way or the other, I expect that we get something from the full Court today—although *when* and *what* is anyone’s guess.

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 21, 2023

And a reminder of how this complex case reached this point, from the Guardian’s Lauren Gambino:

Earlier this month, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a federal judge in Texas, declared that the FDA improperly approved the drug in 2000, in effect saying it should be pulled from the market even where abortion remains legal.

The Biden administration appealed to a federal court, where a divided three-judge panel said mifepristone could remain available but imposed several barriers to how the drug is accessed and administered.

Following the appellate ruling, the justice department sought emergency relief from the supreme court, asking the justices to block a lower court ruling that would have sharply curtailed access to the pill by reversing a series of regulatory actions on mifepristone that the FDA loosened, beginning in 2016.

The pause gives the justices additional time to study arguments and consider the restrictions ordered by the lower court, which include limiting mifepristone use after seven weeks of pregnancy – it is currently approved through 10 weeks – and banning delivery by mail.

If the justices allow the appeals court ruling to stand, the Biden administration has argued, it would dramatically limit the accessibility of mifepristone for both women seeking it and providers dispensing it, causing chaos.

Updated at 09.30 EDT

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Boris Epshteyn, a top adviser to Donald Trump, is being questioned for a second day by special counsel Jack Smith’s office, ABC News reports.

Prosecutors for Smith, who has been tasked with investigating Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 election, involvement in the January 6 insurrection and possession of classified documents, spoke to Epshteyn yesterday, and ABC says today’s questioning was pre-arranged. Smith reportedly sat in for yesterday’s interview, but did not ask any questions.

Here’s more from ABC about what prosecutors are hoping to learn:

The interview was largely focused on the efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss. The second day of questioning was planned in advance, the sources said.

Epshteyn did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Prosecutors’ questions focused around Epshteyn’s interactions with former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani, Kenneth Chesebro and John Eastman, in addition to Trump himself, according to sources.

Smith was appointed in November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate efforts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as Trump’s handling of classified information after leaving the White House.

Epshteyn was not questioned in the probe into Trump’s handling of classified documents, sources said.

Voters elsewhere have been rejecting rightwing candidates, particularly for a slew of school board seats that were voted on in April. Here’s the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt with a look at the results of the influential local elections:

Scores of rightwing US extremists were defeated in school-board elections in April, in a victory for the left and what Democrats hope could be effective for running against Republicans in the year ahead.

In Illinois, Democrats said more than 70% of school-board candidates it had endorsed won their races, often defeating the kinds of anti-LGBTQ+ culture-warrior candidates who have taken control of school boards across the country.

Republican-backed candidates in Wisconsin also fared poorly. Moms for Liberty, a rightwing group linked to wealthy Republican donors which has been behind book-banning campaigns in the US, said only eight of its endorsed candidates won election to school boards, and other conservative groups also reported disappointing performances.

Updated at 11.13 EDT

Matthew Kacsmaryk sits in Texas, a state where the legislature took steps yesterday to make time for prayer in public schools, and force them to display the Ten Commandments.

According to the Texas Tribune, the lawmaker behind the Ten Commandments push in the state cited a supreme court decision last year in which its conservative majority determined a public high school football coach should not have been removed from his job for leading prayers with players. The coach was represented by First Liberty Institute – where Kacsmaryk worked before becoming a federal judge.

Here’s more from the Texas Tribune on the campaign to bring religion into the state’s public schools:

Public schools in Texas would have to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting next school year under a bill the Texas Senate approved Thursday.

Senate Bill 1515 by Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, now heads to the House for consideration.

This is the latest attempt from Texas Republicans to inject religion into public schools. In 2021, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Mineola Republican, authored a bill that became law requiring schools to display donated “In God We Trust” signs.

King said during a committee hearing earlier this month that the Ten Commandments are part of American heritage and it’s time to bring them back into the classroom. He said the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for his bill after it sided with Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for praying at football games. The court ruled that was praying as a private citizen, not as an employee of the district.

“[The bill] will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America,” King said during that hearing.

The Senate also gave final passage to Senate Bill 1396, authored by Sen. Mayes Middleton, R-Galveston, which would allow public and charter schools to adopt a policy requiring every campus to set aside a time for students and employees to read the Bible or other religious texts and to pray.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, the Texas federal judge who earlier this month revoked the government’s approval of mifepristone after a lawsuit brought by anti-abortion groups, holds some unusual views on gay rights, divorce and contraception that he did not share with the Senate.

CNN reported yesterday on radio interviews in which Kacsmaryk called being gay a “lifestyle” and made comments critical of “no-fault divorce” and “permissive contraception policies”. The interview was not included in the materials Kacsmaryk sent to the Senate judiciary committee as it considered his appointment in 2017, even though nominees typically submit exhaustive lists of public statements to lawmakers.

Here’s more about Kacsmaryk’s views, from CNN:

Matthew Kacsmaryk, the judge who issued the ban on mifepristone, failed to disclose two 2014 interviews on Christian talk radio during his confirmation process.

In the interviews, he blames “no-fault divorce” and “permissive contraception policies” for the “sexual revolution.” pic.twitter.com/shxbi8D3rj

— The Recount (@therecount) April 20, 2023

The supreme court is facing mounting scrutiny over its approach to ethics after revelations emerged of unreported ties between conservative justice Clarence Thomas and a Republican megadonor. The Senate judiciary chair wants chief justice John Roberts to make a rare appearance before his committee, but as the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly reports, the absence of a key Democratic senator could complicate that:

Asked if he would subpoena the chief justice of the US supreme court for testimony over corruption allegations against the conservative justice Clarence Thomas, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee made clear his frustration with a continued absence from the panel that has left Democrats unable to make such a move.

“It takes a majority,” Dick Durbin of Illinois said on Thursday. “I don’t have a majority.”

Democrats do not have a committee majority because of the absence of Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old California senator who has been hospitalised with shingles.

Here’s the Guardian’s Poppy Noor with more on the abortion case the supreme court is considering today:

The supreme court is expected to rule on Friday on whether to allow restrictions on mifepristone to go into effect while a lawsuit brought by anti-abortion groups targeting the pill proceeds.

On Wednesday, justice Samuel Alito extended an administrative stay on a lower court ruling that reimposes pre-2016 restrictions on the drug. Access to the drug remains unchanged while the supreme court deliberates.

An order upholding lower court rulings in favor of limiting the drug would drastically curtail access to the most common method of abortion in the US, with consequences for miscarriage care, as well.

If the supreme court allows the lower court rulings to stand, this will have huge implications for abortion and miscarriage care nationally, even in states where abortion is still legal. Considering more than half of abortions in the US are completed using pills, it could mean the biggest blow to reproductive rights since Roe v Wade was overturned.

It’s possible that today ends with a supreme court decision allowing abortion medication mifepristone to stay available at pharmacies nationwide. Or, the court’s conservative majority could again display its willingness to throttle reproductive care access and allow an appeals court decision reimposing restrictions on the drug to go into effect.

Here’s a look at four ways the ruling on the mifepristone case could go, from Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas School of Law:

Here we go again:

Four possible #mifepristone rulings from #SCOTUS today:

1) Grant stay pending appeal;

2) Deny stay pending appeal;

3) Weird mixed ruling; or

4) No ruling.

(1) means no change to mifepristone access anytime soon; (2)-(4) mean big changes starting Saturday.

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 21, 2023

It’s also *possible* that Justice Alito extends the administrative stay *again* (what happened on Wednesday), but that seems exceedingly unlikely.

One way or the other, I expect that we get something from the full Court today—although *when* and *what* is anyone’s guess.

— Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) April 21, 2023

And a reminder of how this complex case reached this point, from the Guardian’s Lauren Gambino:

Earlier this month, Matthew Kacsmaryk, a federal judge in Texas, declared that the FDA improperly approved the drug in 2000, in effect saying it should be pulled from the market even where abortion remains legal.

The Biden administration appealed to a federal court, where a divided three-judge panel said mifepristone could remain available but imposed several barriers to how the drug is accessed and administered.

Following the appellate ruling, the justice department sought emergency relief from the supreme court, asking the justices to block a lower court ruling that would have sharply curtailed access to the pill by reversing a series of regulatory actions on mifepristone that the FDA loosened, beginning in 2016.

The pause gives the justices additional time to study arguments and consider the restrictions ordered by the lower court, which include limiting mifepristone use after seven weeks of pregnancy – it is currently approved through 10 weeks – and banning delivery by mail.

If the justices allow the appeals court ruling to stand, the Biden administration has argued, it would dramatically limit the accessibility of mifepristone for both women seeking it and providers dispensing it, causing chaos.

Updated at 09.30 EDT

Good morning, US politics blog readers. The supreme court could again wade into the debate over abortion access today, as it considers an appeal by Joe Biden’s administration of a recent court order reimposing restrictions on the drug mifepristone. The case stems from a lawsuit brought by anti-abortion groups seeking to revoke the government’s approval of the drug, which is used in medication abortion. The high court remains dominated by conservatives who less than a year ago overturned Roe v Wade and ended nationwide access to the procedure. A stay on the lower court’s ruling expires at midnight today, and the justices are expected to announce which way they will rule in this case sometime before then.

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • Joe Biden will announce new actions to advance environmental justice in a speech at 2.15pm ET.

  • Kamala Harris is heading to Florida, where she’ll give a televised interview to Telemundo and speak about the Biden administration’s efforts to help communities survive extreme weather.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief reporters at 1pm.