The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has removed the restrictions on the distribution of abortion pills, allowing them to be dispensed to buyers without having to be picked up in person.
The changes will allow abortion drugs to be sent through the mail and open avenues for the abortion medication to potentially be purchased and sold through the internet.
"The FDA's decision eliminating its unnecessary in-person requirement did not come a moment too soon," said ACLU attorney Julia Kaye said in a statement following the announcement.
The loosened guidelines introduce potential for malfeasance and abuse. Without the supervision of doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners in clinical settings, potential buyers could foreseeably use abortion drugs for ill-purpose.
The move is seen in large part as a response to the Supreme Court’s pending rulings on allowing lawsuits brought on by conservative states to restrict abortions to 15 weeks of pregnancy or earlier.
In early December, the Supreme Court signaled a willingness to uphold Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, allowing them only in medical emergencies or cases of severe fetal abnormality. The majority of the court’s justices suggested they were prepared to eliminate the previous standard preventing states from banning abortion before a fetus becomes viable.
The FDA announced:
After conducting a review of the single, shared system Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for mifepristone, known as the Mifepristone REMS Program, FDA determined that the data support modification of the REMS to reduce burden on patient access and the health care delivery system and to ensure the benefits of the product outweigh the risks. The modifications to the Mifepristone REMS Program will consist of:
- Removing the requirement that mifepristone be dispensed only in certain healthcare settings, specifically clinics, medical offices, and hospitals (referred to as the “in-person dispensing requirement”)
- Adding a requirement that pharmacies that dispense the drug be certified
Pro-life advocates have stressed the dangers of allowing abortion medical to be dispensed through the mail. Without existing requirements that a woman is examined in person by a doctor prior to undergoing a medically induced abortion, the opportunity exists for human traffickers and rapists to administer abortion pills acquired through the mail to their victims.
“Today’s FDA decision ignores several sets of much more substantial data which confirms the abortion pill is a significant public health threat, and the real-world data suggests that threat is growing,” stated Dr. James Studnicki, vice president of data analytics at Charlotte Lozier Institute.
In response to rising concerns over potential abuse, 19 states located in the south and Midwest have existing bans for medication abortion. The New York Times reports that these states, which are mostly conservative are expected to pass new laws to further curtail access to the pills in order to prevent abuse.
“Almost half of U.S. states have banned or tightly restricted abortion pills — two medicines named mifepristone and misoprostol — and more could soon follow suit,” Axios reported.