US SC to rule on January 6 riot, nationwide restriction of abortion drug

US Supreme Court has announced a review of obstruction charges in cases relating to the storming of the US Capitol in 2021. The court will also rule on access to abortion medication

The court will rule on threats to US democracy and abortion access for millions of women in 2024 (photo: DW)
The court will rule on threats to US democracy and abortion access for millions of women in 2024 (photo: DW)


The US Supreme Court (SCOUTUS) on Wednesday announced that it would review controversial issues related to the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, as well as access to critical abortion medication in the coming year.

The court said it would review an appeals court ruling against three defendants charged in the January 6 riots in a case that has the potential to overturn hundreds of pending trials against supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Trump had sought to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election in which he was defeated by Democrat Joe Biden.

An appeals court found that rules defining obstruction did not apply to three defendants facing lengthy jail sentences for their participation in riots that delayed the certification of Biden's Electoral College victory, claiming none of the three men had taken "action with respect to a document, record or other object."

January 6 case could overturn hundreds of indictments

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) argued against the ruling, and a further appeals court in Washington, DC, found the lower court ruling faulty for being too limited in its interpretation, saying the law "applies to all forms of corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding."

More than 1,200 people have been charged with crimes related to the January 6 riots, and over 300 have been charged with obstruction, meaning the Supreme Court review could impact all of their cases. A decision is expected early next summer.

The court is also discussing whether to review Trump's claims of immunity in an obstruction case brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith.

Smith urged the court to rule on the issue in a swift manner, arguing that the case went to the heart of US democracy and must be resolved before the 2024 US presidential election — in which Trump looks certain to become the Republican nominee, setting up a likely rematch with Biden.

Smith's case against Trump is expected to go to trial on March 4, at exactly the same time the presidential campaign heats up.

SCOTUS to hear first abortion case since Dobbs ruling

The court also said it would again weigh in on abortion restrictions in a case that could have massive repercussions for millions of US women.

At issue is access to the abortion drug Mifepristone. Supreme Court justices will review a lower court ruling that has been on hold since it was handed down by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Conservative appeals court judges ruled that the use of the drug — which accounts for over half of all abortions in the US — should be limited to the first seven weeks of pregnancy rather than the first 10 weeks. It would also require a doctor's prescription for the drug and would bar the medication from being distributed in the mail.

Anti-abortion advocates have argued the drug should be banned altogether, claiming it is unsafe despite having been approved by the government's Federal Drug Administration (FDA) over 20 years ago.

The FDA said more than 5.6 million US women have safely used the drug to successfully terminate unwanted pregnancies since 2000.

The Supreme Court has put a freeze on the lower court decision, maintaining temporary access to the drug.

The case will be the most consequential on the contentious issue of access to reproductive medicine since the court partially overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion rights decision in its 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling — opening the door to states outlawing the procedure and forcing women to engage in criminal activity to terminate pregnancies.

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Published: 14 Dec 2023, 11:23 AM