(OSV News) – As the Supreme Court prepares to take up two cases on access to pills commonly used for early abortions, U.S. Catholic bishops have issued a nationwide call to prayer to end abortion and protect women and unborn children.

The invitation was issued March 14 by Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

A box of medication used to induce abortion, known generically as mifepristone and by its brand name Mifeprex, is seen in an undated handout photo. Pro-life advocates have respond to a report by #WeCount, an effort by the pro-choice Society of Family Planning, claiming that the number of legal abortions provided by virtual-only clinics spiked 72% in the year following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. (OSV News photo/courtesy Danco Laboratories)

The prayer campaign, which seeks the intercession of St. Joseph as the “Defender of Life,” begins March 25, the day before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments for Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and Danco Laboratories v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine. Both cases center on the drug mifepristone and its widespread availability.

The start date also marks the anniversary of the release of Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (“The Gospel of Life”). The encyclical itself was published on that year’s observance of the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, which in 2024 will be celebrated Monday, April 8.

The daily prayer for the campaign is available in English and Spanish at respectlife.org/prayer-to-st-joseph.

“We ask Catholics to offer this prayer daily, from March 25 through June, when a decision is expected,” wrote Archbishop Broglio and Bishop Burbidge.

First approved by the FDA in 2000, mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which maintains proper conditions in the uterus during pregnancy. The drug is paired with misoprostol (initially created to treat gastric ulcers) as part of a chemical regimen used in more than half of all U.S. abortions in 2020.

More recently, the same pill combination has also been prescribed to women who experience early pregnancy miscarriage in order to expel any fetal remains and residual pregnancy tissue from the womb. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists updated its protocols to recommend a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol as more effective than misoprostol alone for early miscarriage care based on research published since 2018.

Last year, the doctors and medical professionals represented by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine challenged the FDA’s greenlighting of mifepristone as unsafe.

While it struck down the alliance’s request in August 2023, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did revoke the FDA’s efforts to increase access to the drug. Nonetheless, an earlier stay issued by the nation’s top court has maintained broad access to the drug.

The bishops acknowledged that the upcoming Supreme Court case “is not about ending chemical abortion,” but still has the potential to “restore limitations that the FDA has overridden.”

“When a Supreme Court decision is released, probably in June, we can expect a public and political reaction similar to the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade,” they wrote.

On March 11, Bishop Burbidge issued a statement expressing “great sorrow” after the body of a preterm baby was discovered in a pond in Leesburg, Virginia.

The bishop asked the faithful to pray “for the child’s mother and for anyone involved in this incident” and offered burial services while highlighting diocesan resources for women in challenging pregnancies.