For the first time ever, U.S. women seeking to terminate a pregnancy using medication abortion will be able to legally obtain the pills through the mail, avoiding the need for an in-person doctor’s visit.
A federal court ruled on Monday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must suspend a rule that requires patients to visit a hospital, clinic or medical office to obtain mifepristone, a drug used to terminate pregnancies, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under existing regulations, patients seeking medication abortion ― a protocol that involves taking mifepristone in combination with a second drug, misoprostol ― must pick up the medicines in person from an abortion clinic, even though the pills are usually swallowed at home. For some patients, this can mean traveling hundreds of miles just to obtain a prescription.
About 40% of all abortions in the U.S. are performed at home using medication abortion, which can be taken up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Monday’s decision allows healthcare providers to send mifepristone to eligible patients through the mail so they don’t have to travel during the pandemic. The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of a coalition of reproductive rights advocates and medical experts, including more than 60,000 OB-GYNs.
“The In-Person Requirements, combined with the COVID19 pandemic, place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a medication abortion and that may delay or preclude a medication abortion and thus may necessitate a more invasive procedure,” U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang wrote in the ruling. “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”
The in-person dispensing rules will be suspended until at least 30 days after the end of the federal government’s declared public health...