Why the Supreme Court Mifepristone Case Should Matter to Workplaces

Supreme Court Building during the day

Photo Credit: Douglas Rissing

In the past, RALIANCE has weighed in on Supreme Court cases revolving around issues like affirmative action (Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina) and a constitutional right to abortion (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization). We did so because we believe that, when our government limits the potential for autonomy and equity, employees and the businesses they work at suffer. We once again feel compelled to speak on a Supreme Court case that presents the possibility to do just that: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine case revolves around mifepristone, a type of medication abortion which is used for over half of U.S. abortions, and has potential to limit access to the drug if the court rules in favor of the prosecuting party, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine (AHM). AHM was founded in wake of the Dobbs decision and has ties to other anti-choice, anti-LGBT groups such as the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the American College of Pediatricians (not to be confused with the American Academy of Pediatrics). Their case argues for eliminating mail distribution of mifepristone and shortening the window for its use from 10 weeks to seven weeks.

The case is expected to be heard sometime in late June or early July. Justices’ perspectives during oral arguments indicate that the prosecution may not have the legal standing, nor the evidence needed for this restriction to be successful. However, several states have already begun to introduce and enact anti-mifepristone legislation, and others are expected to pursue a similar bout of litigation should the FDA v. AHM case fail.

When cases like this arise, a lot of the discussion often centers on how the outcomes impact individuals. In this blog, we’ll be addressing the ways in which workplaces could be impacted by an adverse outcome in this case or any similar cases aiming to restrict medication abortion.

Employee Safety Compromised

One element of anti-abortion environments that is often overlooked is the increased risk of danger for those currently pregnant or postpartum. Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant people – surpassing any medical ailment. “For some victims of intimate partner violence, pregnancy can increase the severity of violence, while for others it can actually initiate abuse in a relationship that was not violent beforehand,” per The HuffPost. For states that pass anti-abortion legislation, these rates of violence are shown to increase. It’s a collective responsibility to ensure that we create avenues to safety for those in danger and cultivate environments that prevent such dangers from occurring in the first place. As businesses, we know that domestic violence adversely impacts the mental/physical well-being of staff and therefore disrupts their ability to work, but it also has the potential to similarly endanger or harm other colleagues. Protecting abortion access is just one preventative barrier to this issue that all employers should prioritize.

EEOC Guidelines Hindered

In April 2024, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its Enforcement Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace for the first time in 25 years, and one of its most important additions is that sex-based harassment under Title VII includes harassment based upon whether a person decides to or to not have an abortion. While, “the guidance is not legally binding, [it] lays out a blueprint for how the EEOC will enforce anti-bias laws and can be cited in court to back up legal arguments,” per NBC News. In periods of heightened tension, such as when abortion bans are passed, people on both sides of the issue may feel the need to express themselves in a way that can create a hostile work environment. As workplaces balance providing the type of healthcare that’s right for them, the right to free speech, and the commitment to creating equitable, safe work environments, abortion restrictions and bans would make all of the above more difficult to achieve.

Turnover and Time Off Work Increased

As abortion rights continue to be threatened or revoked, prospective and current employees are making their employment decisions based on ease of abortion access. One survey found that over half of respondents aged 18-44 said they wouldn’t live in areas where abortion is restricted, which in turn impacts the pool of applicants employers in those states would receive. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) 2024 Research Brief, estimates that “restrictions placed on abortion access cost the US an average of $173 billion per year by reducing labor force participation and earnings levels and increasing turnover and time off from work among women employed in the private sector. This is up from $146 billion in 2020.” Employers should keep this in mind when any sort of abortion restriction or ban is proposed at the state or federal level, as it hurts their ability to gain new talent and retain institutional knowledge.

Employee Health Harmed

Abortion is, at its very core, a healthcare decision. Previously, we have discussed the importance of workplaces providing access to reproductive healthcare, and abortion access very much plays a role within that framework. The restriction or banning of mifepristone, a safe and effective drug, would prompt abortion providers to use solely misoprostol rather than the typical combination prescription of mifepristone and misoprostol. A misoprostol-only treatment, while safe, causes more intense side effects for longer including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. For employees needing medication for miscarriage care, being forced into a similar misoprostol treatment instead of the mifepristone-misoprostol combination treatment may present its own complications. While still safe, AP News reports that, “research shows it’s not as effective at helping expel pregnancy tissue — which can lead to a dangerous infection if it stays in the uterus. The treatment success rate for miscarriage patients who got misoprostol only was 67%, compared with 84% for those who took the two drugs, a 2018 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found.” Employers must stand by allowing employees to access the best, easiest, and safest medical outcomes.

As the legal, judicial, and national conversation and actions pertaining to abortion access continue to evolve, it is up to employers to stay tuned in that conversation and strive to become workplaces that protect and help all colleagues, regardless of their healthcare decisions.

RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.


Subscribe to Our Newsletter