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More States Are Restricting Women From Seeking Medically Induced Abortions

The hot-button issue of abortion never cools down in America, despite the lack of reasoning for any government agency to be interfering in an American citizen’s personal medical decisions. In states where restrictions were already in place, women facing unwanted pregnancies during the Coronavirus pandemic have had to find other options when traditional abortion providers weren’t available, such as medication that safely leads to what would be termed a miscarriage were it to occur on its own.

Women facing stay-at-home orders in other states with no restrictions have had an easier time getting prescriptions through telehealth appointments. In an effort to expand access, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temporarily eased long-standing in-person dispensing requirements for the drug mifepristone, first in July 2020 in response to a court order that was later reversed by the Supreme Court, and again in April, so that women could order the pills by mail for the duration of the pandemic.

Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

But anti-abortion legislation in certain states is even making that difficult or impossible for women unable to travel to other areas to receive the care they need. The FDA’s move, along with the explosive growth in telehealth services and increase in self-managed medication abortions, sparked a flurry of legislative activity in Ohio and other Republican-led states. They further limited access to the pills, adding to restrictions on their use already in place in dozens of states around the nation.

Under the Biden administration, the FDA is reviewing whether to permanently lift the in-person dispensing requirement for the bills, which it could decide by December. But that move would have little impact on access for women in a huge swath of the nation because of the state-level statutory restrictions, advocates say.

This year alone, a half dozen states have passed laws targeting medication-induced abortion and several others are advancing legislation. Arkansas, Arizona, and Oklahoma enacted laws banning the mailing of mifepristone for abortions. Montana approved a measure effectively banning telehealth services for such abortions, as did Ohio, whose law is being challenged by Planned Parenthood in court. Planned Parenthood offers abortion pills through telehealth appointments in about 20 heavily Democratic states where it’s legal to do so and says there’s no medical reason to require that prescriptions be given in person.

Indiana passed legislation mandating that a patient take the first dose in the presence of a physician. The law also says abortion providers must tell patients that medication abortions can be reversed with progesterone — a claim the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says is unsupported by science. That law is also being challenged by Planned Parenthood and other advocacy groups The Texas Legislature, which passed a fetal “heartbeat bill” in May, is now expected to consider a bill to limit medication abortions once it reconvenes with a quorum for its special session. That measure also would ban the mailing of abortion pills and require doctors to examine a woman in person and ensure she’s no more than seven weeks pregnant before prescribing the medication.

 



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