On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of continuing to allow abortion pill access by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that patients taking Mifeprex, also known as the abortion pill, must be given the pills at a clinic by a health care professional. Additionally, they are required to receive in-person counseling and sign a form acknowledging they understand the risks and side effects.
But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, that all changed.
Early in the pandemic, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG) requested that the FDA lift its in-person requirement for an abortion pill prescription. The FDA refused so the ACOG sued.
In July, Federal District Court Judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland ruled in favor of the ACOG, stating that the pills could be sent by mail. His ruling placed a temporary injunction on the FDAs in-person rule nationwide.
“This sets a dangerous precedent and opens the door to medical malpractice,” said Dr. Karysse Trandem, an OB/GYN physician and Medical Director of the Pregnancy Resource Centers of Southwest Florida.
“A medical abortion is a procedure that carries significant risks and is a life-altering decision. Women have the right to be counseled appropriately regarding this medical decision and that right has been taken away by allowing this pill to be available without physician interaction,” she said. “I have treated women in my clinic who have taken this pill at home and come back with significant complications that could have been prevented had they been given appropriate medical care and counsel before taking the abortion pill.”
Use of Mifeprex has steadily increased since it was first approved by the FDA in 2000. The Guttmacher Institute notes that it now accounts for nearly 39 percent of all abortions in the United States.
This temporary restriction has dangerous implications for the future of abortion in America by making it even easier to obtain an abortion. It also highlights a crucial need for pregnancy resource center services.
“During the pandemic, we have seen more women seeking abortions and wanting to know their options,” said Valerie Millsapps, the executive director at the Pregnancy Resource Center in Tennessee. “There is a lot of fear right now, but it indicates a crucial need for outreach services. Women need to find us so they can get all their options without judgment.“
Currently, the status of the injunction is still under review. The Supreme Court ruled that the district court has 40 days to review the reinstatement request.
Read more of our coronavirus coverage here.