A drug used to terminate early pregnancies can now be sent by mail instead of being required to be dispensed in person, according to a new regulation by the U.S. government.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made the decision even as the right to obtain an abortion, established in the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, hangs in the balance.
Generically known as mifepristone, the drug is approved for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy and is also sometimes prescribed to treat women who are having miscarriages.
“The FDA’s decision will come as a tremendous relief for countless abortion and miscarriage patients,” Georgeanne Usova, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU told Reuters.
The FDA placed restrictions on the drug since 2000 when it was approved for use. It was temporarily lifted this year due to the pandemic, enabling women to consult healthcare providers by telemedicine and receive the pills by mail.
The permanent change in the regulation by the FDA means patients do not have to go to the clinic or hospital in person to receive the medication but can choose to receive it by mail.
While 19 states including Texas have laws that supersede the FDA decision by barring telehealth consultations or mailing of abortion pills, women in those states could go to states that allow the FDA’s decision to get the medication.
But the FDA left some restrictions in place such as using a certified pharmacy and requiring the prescribers to be certified. The ACLU said it was “disappointing that the FDA fell short of repealing all of its medically unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone and these remaining obstacles should also be lifted.”
The organization sued the U.S. government on behalf of a Hawaii doctor and several professional health care associations in 2017 challenging the restrictions that it said limited access to medication abortion.
Medication abortion involves two drugs, taken over a day or two. The first, mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy-sustaining hormone progesterone. The second, misoprostol, induces uterine contractions.