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Blog Post | March 26, 2024

Amicus Spotlight: FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

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Amicus Spotlight: FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

Right-wing groups, including several linked to court-whisperers Leonard Leo and Charles Koch, are urging SCOTUS to ban the abortion medication mifepristone.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in FDA v. Alliance For Hippocratic Medicine, a blockbuster case that could limit access to the mifepristone medication currently used in 60 percent of abortions. 

The case originated last April in the Northern District of Texas, where Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (a former anti-abortion activist) ruled that the FDA had erred when it approved mifepristone for patient use in 2000. Within minutes of Kacsmaryk’s ruling (which extensively cited flawed science, including two since-retracted studies), Washington District Judge Thomas Rice issued a contrary ruling allowing mifepristone to remain on-market pending resolution from the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court announced last December it would hear the dispute – its first major post-Dobbs reproductive rights case. 

As watchdog Accountable.US has documented, the circumstances surrounding this case – particularly, its plaintiffs – are extremely dubious:

  • The named plaintiff Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM) is a newly-incorporated “sham group” of right-wing pseudo-medical organizations who have been widely rebuked by the broader medical community for pushing fake science. Though its mailing address is in Tennessee, AHM appears to have incorporated in Texas in order to “judge-shop” the mifepristone lawsuit to Judge Kacsmaryk.    
  • AHM is represented in the case by right-wing litigation group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which manufactured a fake controversy about a gay wedding website to shepherd an anti-LGBT case before the Supreme Court last year. According to NBC News, the plaintiff doctors represented by ADF in FDA v. AHM do not even prescribe mifepristone to their patients.  
  • At least one AHM member, the American Association of Pro-Life OBGYNs, has received funding from Project 2025 architect Leonard Leo. Prior to becoming a District Court judge, Matthew Kacsmaryk worked at an activist group that paid Leo’s consulting firm six figures per year. Leo played an instrumental role in the Supreme Court confirmations of Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and has attended luxury trips with the Justices.

Beyond directly backing the plaintiffs, Leo and other powerful friends of the Justices are exerting their influence in this case through amicus briefs. This is particular cause for concern given the recent history of the Court: a recent Politico investigation found that language used by several Leo-linked amicus filers in the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case was echoed by Justice Samuel Alito in his majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade

An RDP review of amicus brief filings in FDA v. AHM finds at least 5 right-wing amicus filers in the case have significant ties to Leo, the Koch network, and other “court-whisperers”.  

  • ADVANCING AMERICAN FREEDOM (AAF): Founded in April 2021 by former Vice President Mike Pence, AAF is home to a number of former Trump Administration officials, and it has made anti-abortion advocacy one of its top priorities. Between 2020 and 2022, AAF received over $1.5 million from Leonard Leo’s Concord Fund.
  • STUDENTS FOR LIFE OF AMERICA: Known for its “I Am The Pro-Life Generation” signs, Students for Life of America recruits children and young adults into the anti-abortion movement at schools and college campuses across the country. In addition to opposing abortion and oral contraceptives, Students for Life has also lobbied against reauthorizing the lifesaving HIV/AIDS prevention initiative PEPFAR. Leonard Leo was Co-Chairman of the Board for Students for Life of America until at least August 2023, at which point his name was removed from their website. Leo tied groups have also funded Students for Life.
  • JUDICIAL WATCH: Judicial Watch is a notorious right-wing litigation group that has advanced voter fraud conspiracies, aggressively defended Donald Trump in his personal legal controversies, and waged a scorched-earth legal campaign against climate science. It is an associate member of the Koch-linked State Policy network and has received $400,000 in grant funding from Republican mega-donor Bernie Marcus’ nonprofit (Marcus is a 1993 inductee into the Horatio Alger Association, an exclusive circle of wealthy business elites that has lavished Clarence Thomas with luxury gifts and received unprecedented access to the Supreme Court building). 

Other notable right-wing amicus filers in this case include: 

  • DAVID BERNHARDT: Most recently Trump’s Interior Secretary, Bernhardt is an oil and gas lobbyist at BigLaw firm Brownstein Hyatt, where he has previously represented fossil fuel companies Cobalt International Energy and Halliburton. Bernhardt also serves on the board of the Mike Pence-led (and Leonard Leo-funded) group Advancing American Freedom. In his brief, Bernhardt shamelessly plugs his own book before claiming the FDA is an “entrenched bureaucracy [that] often disregards the law in order to advance policy judgments over scientific ones” (a conspiratorial narrative that serves as a flimsy deflection from his own corrupt Interior leadership). 
  • EDWIN MEESE: 92-year-old Edwin Meese III is a former top aide to Ronald Reagan who served as Attorney General from 1985 to 1988, when he resigned amidst a major ethics scandal. Meese currently serves on the right-wing Federalist Society’s Board of Directors, alongside Leonard Leo and former Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn. In a speech at the 2007 Federalist Society Lawyers Convention, Justice Clarence Thomas called Meese a “great man” who had played “an important role, not only in my development, but in my life.” 
  • 145 CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS: Despite the “Dobbs effect” quashing the 2022 midterm’s expected red wave, 119 House Republicans and 26 GOP Senators have filed an amicus brief stating they are “committed to protecting women and adolescent girls from the harms of the abortion industry.” Signatories include MAGA hardliners Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Andy Biggs, Elise Stefanik, Lauren Boebert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene. 
  • AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE (ACLJ): ACLJ is a conservative legal organization founded by the late televangelist Pat Robertson, who once claimed that gay people and abortion caused 9/11. ACLJ’s brief in FDA v. AHM is co-authored by Jay and Jordan Sekulow, a father-son duo who served on Trump’s first impeachment defense team. According to Accountable.US, Jay Sekulow operates two nonprofits that have paid him, his family, and their companies at least $145 million over the past two decades. 
  • OPERATION RESCUE: Operation Rescue is an infamous anti-abortion group that harassed Kansas physician George Tiller for years. Tiller was murdered in 2009 by Scott Roeder, who claimed in a jailhouse interview he had given “probably a thousand dollars” worth of donations to Operation Rescue. Operation Rescue’s amicus brief is authored by the Sekulows and ACLJ.

On the other side of the case, a broad coalition of public officials and advocacy groups has filed 33 amicus briefs supporting the FDA and continued legal access to mifepristone, including over 200 pro-choice organizations, leading reproductive health researchers, former top DOJ and national security officials, and seven former FDA commissioners

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