Nine boxes of Mifeprex are shown in a three by three grid
Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

While MSNBC and CNN dedicated hours to the high-stakes Supreme Court hearing on mifepristone access, Fox News covered it for just 20 minutes

Fox News is largely ignoring the major court battle after conservative justices appear unswayed by the anti-abortion plaintiffs

MSNBC and CNN dedicated hours of coverage to the arguments in the Supreme Court case over access to the widely used abortion drug mifepristone nationwide, while Fox News trailed far behind with just 20 minutes.

  • Media Matters timed coverage on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News in the 24-hour span between the Supreme Court’s hearing, which commenced at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday, through 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, excluding live audio of the hearing. During that period, MSNBC led coverage of the mifepristone hearing with more than 3 and a half hours, followed by CNN’s approximate hour and a half of coverage, and Fox News trailing last with just 20 minutes dedicated to the case.

    A bar graph shows that among cable news channels covering the mifepristone oral arguments:CNN dedicated 1hr38min; Fox News 20min; and MSNBC 3hr42min

  • The case before the Supreme Court involves a 2022 lawsuit brought by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a coalition of anti-abortion doctors and activists, challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, the first of two drugs typically used in a medication abortion regimen, and subsequent loosening of restrictions to accessing the medication. 

    Though mifepristone has a decadeslong record of safe and effective use to end pregnancies, lawyers for the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine contended that the FDA “removed nearly all of its originally required safety standards that ensured women and girls had ongoing medical care while taking these high-risk drugs.” Though serious complications are extremely rare, with just 0.4% of mifepristone users experiencing major complications, the anti-abortion advocates are emphasizing the slim possibility of adverse side effects of the medication. 

    Medication abortion accounts for more than 60% of abortions in the U.S., making the lawsuit crucial to maintaining abortion access throughout the country. Additionally, a court decision in favor of the plaintiff could strip access to mifepristone nationwide, including in states where abortion is legal, and has the potential to upend the FDA’s regulatory powers over research and drug approval. Reproductive rights advocates have also warned that curbing mifepristone distribution would also affect individuals who use the same medication when experiencing miscarriages.

    For years, Fox has amplified the anti-abortion movement, providing a friendly platform for misinformation fearmongering about the harms of mifepristone. 

    Fox’s failure to cover the story adequately is particularly telling as even the conservative majority of the Supreme Court expressed stern skepticism about the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine’s legal standing. Fox News has once again put its tail between its legs by largely ignoring the very outcome of its years of fearmongering.

  • Methodology

  • Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC for the term “abortion” within close proximity of any of the terms “medication,” “pill,” “chemical,” “drug,” “mifepristone,” “Alliance Defending Freedom,” “ADF,” “Food and Drug Administration,” “FDA,” “lawsuit,”“suit,” “misoprostol,” or “Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine,” or “AHM,” or any variation of the term “prescribe” from 10 a.m. ET on March 26, 2024, the start time of the Supreme Court hearing, through 10 a.m. ET on March 27, 2024.

    We timed segments, which we defined as instances when the mifepristone hearing was the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the hearing. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the hearing with one another.

    We also timed mentions, which we defined as instances when a speaker mentioned the hearing without another speaker in the segment engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the hearing scheduled to air later in the broadcast. We excluded instances of networks broadcasting the live audio of the hearing as it happened.

    We rounded all times to the nearest minute.