More women are expected to gain access to a common abortion drug after the FDA announced a major shift on Wednesday. The agency approved a new label for the drug Mifeprex, a move that has bigger implications than it might sound. Also known as mifepristone, Mifeprex is used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, to end a pregnancy, reports AP. But several states were able to effectively restrict its use by requiring doctors to strictly abide by its label, which the New York Times notes was based on clinical trials from the 1990s. Over the years, doctors have found that the drug is safer and more effective than originally thought, and the new label relaxes restrictions over its use. Among other things, women will likely have make just two trips to the doctor now, instead of three.
“This is a huge step in increasing access to medication abortion and it comports with the scientific evidence,” says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. The new label also calls for a smaller dose of Mifeprex, from 600mg to 200mg, which should reduce cost and side effects. While many doctors around the country already had been prescribing the drug under these new guidelines, some states had forbidden doctors from doing so. Abortion rights groups say the change will affect laws in Ohio, North Dakota, and Texas that prohibit "off-label" uses of the drug. Similar laws are on hold in Arizona, Arkansas, and Oklahoma.