FDA allows abortion pills by mail during the pandemic

The Biden administration has decided to allow women to receive abortion pills by mail during the coronavirus pandemic, the latest development in a topic increasingly central to the US abortion debate.

In a letter Sent to two leading organizations representing reproductive health physicians on Monday, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said the agency would temporarily stop enforcing the requirement that the first of two medications needed to be Terminate early pregnancy, be provided in a medical clinic.

The new policy goes against a January Supreme Court decision that sided with the Trump administration, which had appealed a federal judge’s decision to suspend the requirement last July. The judge had argued that the requirement would put women at risk during the pandemic, as they would have to personally visit clinics and often travel considerable distances to do so.

Drug abortion, first approved by the FDA in 2000, is increasingly becoming the preferred method of terminating a pregnancy for women. As of 2017, research estimated that about 60 percent of abortion patients early enough in pregnancy to qualify – 10 weeks pregnant or less – chose medication abortion over suction or surgery.

But the FDA requires that the first drug in the two-drug regimen, mifepristone, be dispensed in clinics or hospitals by specially-certified physicians or other medical providers. Reproductive health experts have for years pushed for the requirement to be lifted because there are no significant safety reasons for personally dispensing a pill that women can then legally take anywhere, and that the restriction places the greatest burden on women with low income and on women in areas with limited access to abortion providers.

For several years now, with FDA approval, researchers have been conducting a study that provides telemedicine consultations to women seeking abortion and sending them the pills. Their research has shown that the approach is safe and effective.

In recent months, additional data has been gathered on the experiences of women during the pandemic who received abortion pills by mail after the judge lifted the restriction and before the Supreme Court reinstated it.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting FDA commissioner, wrote in her letter to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine that studies of the pandemic experience “do not appear to show an increase in serious safety issues,” such as bleeding. , ectopic pregnancy, or the need for surgery “that occurs in medical abortion as a result of changing personal dispensing requirement during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Groups opposed to abortion objected to the decision. Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said in a statement that allowing drug abortion appointments through telemedicine “poses a serious threat” to the safety of women, adding that “chemical abortions should be subject to more medical supervision. have, no less “.

Organizations of medical professionals and reproductive health groups, who sent a letter to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in March asking the FDA to lift restrictions during the pandemic, welcomed the decision.

“Mifepristone itself has shown, through both clinical study and decades of use, to be a safe, effective medication,” the president and chief executive of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in a statement. “Requiring the medicine to be delivered personally and then taken elsewhere in the patient’s discretion is arbitrary and does not contribute to the safety of an already safe medicine.”