After Supreme Court's abortion pill decision, Donald Trump is even more likely to ban abortion

The Christian right failed at a backdoor ban, so now their only path forward is winning the 2024 election

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published June 14, 2024 6:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Supreme Court (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Supreme Court (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

For close court watchers, it wasn't surprising that the Supreme Court rejected an effort by Christian right forces to take away access to the abortion pill. The case was too ridiculous, even for the current iteration of the court, which is dominated by six Republican appointees fighting varying levels of corruption allegations. The lawsuit was brought by a group of doctors — and dentists — who do not prescribe the medication in question, mifepristone. It was based on a total lie, which is that the drug is dangerous. (All evidence shows it's safer than Tylenol. The risk of death from Viagra is 10 times higher.) And the argument was eye-rollingly silly: The plaintiffs claimed to be worried they'd be asked to treat abortion patients in an emergency, an instance that rarely comes up, due to the drug's safety. When it does, emergency room providers have a right to ask a pro-choice doctor to step in to handle it.

If anything, we can now expect Republicans to redouble their efforts to ban abortion nationwide.

What was more surprising was how decisive the court was in dismissing the anti-abortion arguments. The decision was unanimous, for one thing, with even the effusively misogynist justices like Sam Alito and Clarence Thomas going along with it. In his opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh used forceful language that likely precludes all future efforts by Christian right groups to rework the complaint and try again. "[A] plaintiff ’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue," he wrote, making it clear that even this Supreme Court cannot see the "personal stake" that these plaintiffs had in what other doctors are prescribing to patients. 

This decision may not be the end of efforts by anti-abortion groups to force a nationwide ban through the courts, but it is undeniably a huge setback. It will be tempting to many pundits and politicians, therefore, to treat this as the end of the efforts to strip all Americans of abortion access. More than 60% of abortions in the U.S. are done with pills, in no small part because they can be sent through the mail, making it easier for patients to get access despite the patchwork of abortion bans that have sprung up across the nation since the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health in 2022.

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Democrats, on the other hand, snapped into motion to warn Americans that the abortion issue is very much alive and that their vote in November could determine the fate of reproductive health care. The decision "does not change the fact that if elected, Trump and his allies want to effectively ban abortion nationwide with or without the help of Congress and the courts," the Democratic National Committee said in a written statement. The White House's statement concurred, adding that Republicans have an "extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide."

As alarming as the Democratic language is, it's arguably an understatement. If anything, we can now expect Republicans to redouble their efforts to ban abortion nationwide. Christian right activists have already made it clear to Donald Trump that they expect him to sign a national abortion ban if he returns to the White House. Now that pressure, which was already high, will skyrocket. And this time, Trump will owe them even more than he did when he won in 2016, because this time, he's running not just for president, but to stay out of prison

Trump likes to make a lot of noise about leaving abortion "to the states," but his actions clearly signal to his fundamentalist followers that he will sign whatever abortion ban they get passed through Congress. On Monday, he spoke to the Danbury Institute, a group that not only calls for a total ban on all abortion but puts scare quotes around the term "women's rights." Trump is the single biggest reason that abortion bans are happening, as he appointed three out of the six justices who voted to overturn Roe. Like every other lie this notorious liar tells, Trump is not "moderate" on abortion, but will do the far-right's bidding on the issue every chance he gets. If he wins and Republicans hold majorities in the Senate and House, it's not a matter of "if" they ban abortion, but whether it's the first or merely second or third thing they do in office. 

Nor is the Republican radicalism on this issue limited to abortion. Earlier this month, all but two Republican senators voted down a bill that would protect the right to contraception from being overturned by the Supreme Court, as Thomas has strongly hinted is a future possibility. In right-wing media, the clamor to ban birth control is growing, with MAGA leaders like Charlie Kirk claiming, "Birth control, like, really screws up female brains." (Trump regularly speaks at events for Kirk's group, TPUSA, and is scheduled to do so again this weekend.) And despite disingenuous claims to support reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization, Republicans in the Senate did the Christian right's bidding this week, voting against a bill to protect the fertility treatment on Thursday. 

And just in case Trump somehow wins the White House without Republicans dominating Congress, anti-abortion forces have a plan to use Trump to ban abortion nationwide anyway: Project 2025. This infamous document, put together by the team widely expected to staff and run the White House if Trump wins, has gotten a lot of attention for the "post-constitutional" plans to take a hammer to decades of labor and environmental regulations, harness to Justice Department to terrorize political opponents, and deport immigrants by the millions. It also outlines a plan to ban the abortion pill nationally without Congress lifting a finger.

One proposal is to simply force the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw its approval of mifepristone, treating it like it's an illegal drug like cocaine. Another proposal is to revive the 1873 Comstock Act, which has been long dormant but never repealed. Doing so would make it illegal to ship any "article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine, or thing which is advertised or described in a manner calculated to lead another to use or apply it for producing abortion." This would not only be a functional ban on all abortion, but would also criminalize those who share information on how abortion works.

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These efforts would be challenged in court, of course, but if he's in the White House, Trump will be able to add a flood of appointees to his already-robust number, all poised to rubber stamp even his most egregious abuses of power. And if anyone is foolish enough to think Trump would somehow prevent his main benefactors from having their way on this, think again. He gave them everything they asked during his first term as president, including three anti-abortion justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

He will be even more beholden to them next time around. After all, he's indicated in multiple ways he does not intend to leave office at the end of a second term. As we learned from the January 6 insurrection, Christian nationalists are his main source of fanatics who will break the law and commit violence on his behalf. To keep those people in his thrall, he has to deliver for them. And there is nothing more important to the Christian right than banning abortion nationwide. 

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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