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FDA Will Permanently Allow Abortion Pills By Mail

FDA Will Permanently Allow Abortion Pills By Mail

The federal government permanently lifted a major restriction on access to abortion pills on Thursday by allowing patients to receive their medication by mail instead of requiring them to obtain the pills in person from specially certified health providers.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision means that medication abortion, an increasingly common method authorized in the United States in 2000 for pregnancies up to 10 weeks of gestation, will become more available to women who find it difficult to travel to an abortion provider or prefer to terminate a pregnancy in the privacy of their homes. It also allows patients to have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail.

The decision comes as the Supreme Court is considering whether to roll back abortion rights or even overturn its landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that made abortion legal nationwide. The FDA had temporarily lifted the in-person requirement on mifepristone, the first of two drugs used to end a pregnancy, during the pandemic, but the decision to make it permanent is likely to deepen the already deep divisions between conservative and liberal states on abortion.

 

Six states have already banned the mailing of pills in anticipation of the FDA’s changes, while seven states have passed laws requiring the pills to be obtained in person from a provider and four states passed laws to set the limit on medication abortion at earlier than 10 weeks gestation.

Legal experts say they expect supporters of abortion rights to try to find ways to make the pills available without requiring a patient to travel, including possibly filing legal challenges to state laws banning telemedicine for abortion. The current practice is that patients who live in states that don’t allow telemedicine for abortion must travel to a state that does, but they don’t have to visit a clinic. They may be in any location within that state for their telehealth visit, even a car, and may receive the pills at any address in the state.

In data released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 42% of all abortions and 54% of abortions before 10 weeks occurred by medication abortion in 2019, the most recent year for which their data is available.

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