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Washington Roundup: High court on mifepristone, bump stocks; White House on Hunter Biden conviction

Boxes of mifepristone are seen at Alamo Women's Clinic in Carbondale, Ill., April 9, 2024. (OSV News photo/Evelyn Hockstein Reuters)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — The Supreme Court June 13 unanimously dismissed a challenge to mifepristone, a pill commonly used for abortion, finding that the challengers lacked standing to bring the case.

The next day the high court struck down a Trump-era federal ban on bump stocks, which allow a shooter to convert a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire hundreds of rounds per minute.

Also in Washington, the White House responded to the conviction of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, on three felony charges related to the purchase of a gun in 2018, after prosecutors said he lied on a mandatory form by saying he was not using or addicted to illegal drugs at the time.

Ruling on mifepristone comes in court’s first major case involving abortion since Dobbs

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court found in FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine that the “plaintiffs lack Article III standing to challenge FDA’s actions regarding the regulation of mifepristone.”

“Plaintiffs are pro-life, oppose elective abortion, and have sincere legal, moral, ideological, and policy objections to mifepristone being prescribed and used by others,” Kavanaugh wrote. “Because plaintiffs do not prescribe or use mifepristone, plaintiffs are unregulated parties who seek to challenge FDA’s regulation of others.”

A coalition of pro-life opponents of mifepristone, which is the first of two drugs used in a medication or chemical abortion, filed suit over loosened restrictions on the drug by the Food and Drug Administration, which included making it available by mail, arguing the government violated its own safety standards in doing so. The FDA argued the drug poses statistically little risk to the mother in the early weeks of pregnancy.

The case marked the first major case involving abortion on the high court’s docket since it overturned its previous abortion precedent in 2022.

The high court on June 14 struck down a Trump-era federal ban on bump stocks, which allow a shooter to convert a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon that can fire hundreds of rounds per minute. In a 6-3 ruling, the court found the Trump administration had exceeded its power in issuing the ban.

The high court is approaching the end of its current term, typically in June, with several major cases remaining in which rulings have yet to be publicly issued.

Among those still pending cases is one regarding claims from former President Donald Trump that he is immune from criminal prosecution amid charges he sought to overturn Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election while still in office.

During April oral arguments in that case, justices across the ideological spectrum appeared skeptical of Trump’s lawyer’s claim of absolute immunity from prosecution, but they may direct lower courts to take up further proceedings in the matter, which could delay Trump’s trial to a date beyond the November election.

In another case about abortion, the Supreme Court in April also considered a potential conflict between Idaho’s abortion restrictions and federal law governing emergency health care.

Supporters of Idaho’s law banning most abortions argued it makes exceptions for emergency circumstances, but opponents argued that the law runs afoul of federal requirements to provide stabilizing care to pregnant women experiencing adverse effects in emergency rooms. The federal law in question, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, or EMTALA, obligates doctors and hospitals to attempt to stabilize both mother and unborn child in an emergency.

In April, the high court also heard City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, the most significant case concerning homelessness to reach the high court in decades, regarding the constitutionality of local laws that ban public camping and their impact on people who are experiencing homelessness.

The case is about an ordinance adopted by Grants Pass prohibiting public camping within city limits. The city claimed the ordinance prohibiting public camping — which it defined as sleeping outside and using materials including blankets — applies to everyone, but challengers argued the ordinance in effect criminalized homelessness, which they said violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

In November, the high court heard oral arguments in United States v. Rahimi, a case challenging the constitutionality of a federal ban on firearms possession by those under domestic violence restraining orders.

Cases about the regulatory power of federal agencies and the deference that courts give those agencies in their interpretation of the law, a legal doctrine known as Chevron deference, as well as a case about social media companies, also are pending.

White House responds to Hunter Biden conviction

Jurors in Delaware June 11 found Hunter Biden guilty on three felony charges of lying to a federally licensed gun dealer, making a false claim on his application by denying he was a drug user and illegally possessing the gun for an 11-day period.

In a statement, Joe Biden said, “I am the President, but I am also a dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

Biden also said he “will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal.”

“Jill and I will always be there for Hunter and the rest of our family with our love and support. Nothing will ever change that,” Biden said.

Meanwhile, Karoline Leavitt, Trump campaign national press secretary, said in a statement that the younger Biden’s trial “has been nothing more than a distraction from the real crimes of the Biden Crime Family.”

“Crooked Joe Biden’s reign over the Biden Family Criminal Empire is all coming to an end on November 5th, she said.

Trump was recently found guilty on all 34 felony counts by a Manhattan jury agreeing unanimously that he falsified business records in paying hush money to an adult film actress in the closing days of the 2016 campaign.

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @kgscanlon.

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