FDA Reverses on Abortion Pill Access During Pandemic

As they could before Trump, women don't have to go in person for mifepristone
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 13, 2021 12:15 PM CDT
Women Don't Have to Go in Person for Abortion Pill
Bottles of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 at a clinic in Des Moines.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Women seeking an abortion pill will not be required to visit a doctor's office or clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic, US health officials said Tuesday. It's the latest reversal in an ongoing legal battle over the medication. The FDA announced the policy change in a letter to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the AP reports, one of several medical groups that has sued over the restriction put in place under the Trump administration. The FDA's acting head, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said reviews of recent studies "do not appear to show increases in serious safety concerns," when women take the pill without first visiting a health facility and discussing the drug's risks, including internal bleeding. The policy only applies during the COVID-19 health emergency.

Several medical groups are pushing to make medication abortion permanently available through online prescribing and mail-order pharmacies. The change clears the way for women to get a prescription for the pill—mifepristone—through telemedicine. However, abortion opponents are pushing legislation in several Republican-run states that would head off easier access. Medication abortion has been available in the US since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone. Taken with a hormone blocker called misoprostol, it constitutes the so-called abortion pill. About 40% of all abortions in the US are now done through medication, rather than surgery, and that option has become more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(More abortion pill stories.)

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