July 14, 2022 — The Biden administration issued guidelines on Wednesday reminding the nation’s 60,000 retail pharmacies of their obligation under federal law to provide prescription drugs, including drugs that can induce abortion.
The Department of Health and Human Services has listed several conditions commonly treated with medication that can cause abortion, warning that refusing to take the pills could violate civil rights laws and could be considered gender discrimination. or disability.
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone can access health care, without discrimination,” Xavier Becerra, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.
“This includes access to prescription drugs for reproductive health and other types of care,” he said.
Earlier this week, Becerra released further guidance to remind hospitals that federal law requires physicians to provide stabilizing treatment to patients with medical emergencies, which could include abortion for those arriving at the emergency room with a life-threatening problem.
Both actions by the Biden administration claim that federal laws trump state laws that have banned or restricted access to abortion since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, according to The New York Times.
The guidelines released Wednesday focus on Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and related federal regulations, which state that recipients of federal financial assistance — including pharmacies receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments — cannot not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability. The guidance emphasizes that pregnancy-related discrimination includes discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.
Three drugs in particular – mifepristone, misoprostol and methotrexate – are often prescribed for other medical conditions but can also cause abortions in some cases. Methotrexate, for example, is used for cancer and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Mifepristone is often used for patients with a hormonal disorder called Cushing’s syndrome, while misoprostol is often prescribed for ulcers. When used in combination, the two drugs are FDA cleared to terminate a pregnancy for the first 10 weeks and after a miscarriage.
Since Roe was ousted, the women have posted on social media that they have been denied medication for their medical conditions because of their “childbearing age”.
“These are very legitimate issues in terms of people worrying about accessing the basic drugs they’ve been getting for years, just because those drugs have the ability to end a pregnancy,” Alina Salganicoff, PhD, Director women’s health policy of the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Time.
“It doesn’t look like [pharmacies] block that for men,” she said.
The Biden administration’s guidelines will likely be challenged in court, the newspaper reported. The update is cautiously written and does not directly say that pharmacies must supply the drugs for medical abortion.
In the meantime, pharmacists might feel stuck in the middle. Pharmacists who “believe they are acting in good faith in accordance with their state’s abortion laws should not be left without a clear path,” the National Community Pharmacists Association said in a statement Wednesday.
The association, which represents about 19,400 independent pharmacies across the United States, said pharmacies are state-regulated and most states have not advised pharmacists on how to dispense the drugs in question. .
“States have provided very little clarity on how pharmacists should proceed in light of conflicting state and federal laws and regulations,” B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the association, said in the statement.
“It is very unfair that state governments and the federal government are threatening to take aggressive action against pharmacists who are simply trying to serve their patients within new legal boundaries that are still emerging,” he said. declared.