Joe Biden’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acted Thursday to eliminate restrictions on obtaining abortion drugs by mail. The rules that had been in place required patients to receive the pills only after in-person consultation with a certified health provider.
In April, the FDA announced that it would suspend the rules if the COVID-19 pandemic continued. That decision reversed the agency’s position during the Trump administration, as upheld by the Supreme Court in January of this year.
In April, FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock wrote that the agency’s new position was that allowing abortion pills to be prescribed by telemedicine consultations and then shipped by mail would help manage the spread of COVID.
This week’s move to make that position permanent is the latest part of a conflict that has continued throughout the year about the delivery of mifepristone. That drug is one of two approved for use in chemical abortions, which is the most common manner of providing abortions procedures during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. As of 2017, around 39% of all American abortions were accomplished through taking abortion drugs.
Abortion advocacy organizations were joined by the American Medical Association and Democratic politicians in demanding that the FDA lift the restrictions on the drugs permanently. Meanwhile, pro-life members of Congress and advocacy groups have been working toward banning the drugs or making the process of obtaining them more thorough.
Nineteen states have banned the delivery of abortion pills through telemedicine consultations. Six states have banned the pills completely this year. Four states passed laws this year limiting chemical abortion drugs to the first ten weeks of pregnancy.
Sue Liebel, the state policy director with Susan B. Anthony List, issued a statement saying that the FDA decision on Thursday puts “countless women and unborn children in danger.” She added that abortion activists have been working for years to turn “every post office into an abortion center.”
Liebel also wrote that the abortion industry promotes the drugs as “easy, painless, and private,” although the science says otherwise. She noted that women who take the drugs are at risk of serious complications requiring emergency care, and some die as a result.
Even though the FDA itself released information in 2018 indicating thousands of adverse medical reactions to the drugs, the agency said that hundreds of hospitalizations and at least 24 deaths since 2000 cannot be “causally connected” to the use of the drugs.