As conservative states began to pass more laws restricting access to surgical abortions, more patients opted for the pills, not least because they can be taken in the privacy of their homes.
The Covid pandemic has fueled this trend. The Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, reported that in 2020, medical abortion accounted for 54% of all abortions.
At the start of the pandemic, medical groups filed a lawsuit asking the FDA to lift its requirement that mifepristone, which blocks a hormone essential to maintaining pregnancy, be dispensed to patients in person at a clinic. or a doctor’s office. Citing years of data showing that medical abortion is safe, medical groups said patients were at greater risk of being infected with the coronavirus if they had to go to clinics to obtain mifepristone.
For parts of the pandemic, the FDA temporarily waived the in-person requirement, then permanently removed it in December. Additionally, the agency said pharmacies could start dispensing mifepristone if they met certain conditions. The agency is working out those qualifications with the drug’s two makers, and reproductive health organizations said some national retail pharmacy chains have expressed interest in being able to distribute the drug in some states, at least by mail. .
The second drug, misoprostol, which causes miscarriage-like contractions and is taken up to 48 hours later, has long been available for a variety of uses with a typical prescription.
A senior Biden administration official said this week that officials are looking for further steps the administration can take to increase access to all types of abortion, including the pill method. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the leaked Supreme Court decision, said President Biden was leading his team “on all aspects in all creative ways, all aspects of federal law, to try to do everything possible” to protect abortion rights.
As part of that effort, Mr. Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, told the Senate on Wednesday that he had created a task force on reproductive health care.