Editorial: The FDA’s decision to allow the shipment of abortion pills won’t help you if you live where they’re banned.

Finally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the long-awaited decision last week to drop the requirement that abortion-inducing drugs must be dispensed in person by a health care provider at a facility. medical. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reproductive health experts and abortion rights supporters had urged the FDA for years to lift restrictions on the safe and effective two-drug regimen that has been available in the United States since 2000 and has been a popular abortion method for 10 first weeks of pregnancy.

This means that the pills can be obtained after consultation online and by mail, which increases access for everyone, especially for people with low incomes or who do not have child care or flexible jobs that allow them time to travel to a clinic. . Consultations with a provider before getting the pills can be done via telehealth, as can any necessary follow-up appointments. But that doesn’t replace Roe’s protections against Wade, which can be overridden or significantly weakened by the Supreme Court.

The FDA explains on its website that it has permanently changed its requirements “to reduce the burden on patient access and the health care delivery system and to ensure that the benefits of the product outweigh the risks”.

During a medical abortion, a pregnant person first takes mifepristone, a drug that blocks the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for the pregnancy to continue. Then, usually a day or two later, the person takes misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and the fetus to come out. The second drug, misoprostol, is used for various medical reasons and is available in pharmacies. The first drug (which is also given to treat miscarriages) is strictly regulated as it is the only drug registered with the FDA to induce abortion. The FDA had allowed people to take the drugs at home or wherever they wanted. Now the FDA doesn’t require them to go to a medical facility first to pick them up.

In addition to waiving the requirement to receive mifepristone in person, the FDA said pharmacies could dispense the drug as long as they are certified by the drug’s manufacturers. No doubt the drug will continue to be delivered via certain mail-order pharmacies already certified to ship it. It is not yet known whether physical pharmacies will be certified to supply the drug.

The inescapable fact is that the abortion access landscape is bleak at the moment. There are 19 states that have books laws requiring a clinician dispensing abortion pills to be physically present to dispense the medication. Thus, the FDA rule change will have no effect on these states. And in eight of those states, the person receiving the pills must take the first course with the health care provider present. Meanwhile, the state of South Dakota has proposed regulations that would require both drugs to be taken at a clinic.

None of these restrictions is anything more than an attempt to make first-trimester abortion as difficult as possible.

And if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade or severely limits his protections, about half of the states in the country would have to ban abortion. If this happens, even the mailing of abortion drugs prescribed by an out-of-state doctor will likely be banned in those states. Obtaining abortion pills would require a trip to a state where they are licensed or to non-US based pharmacies.

But the fact is, no one should have to go that far, and without the advice of a medical professional, to get a legal drug that has been approved by the FDA.

If Roe is overthrown, pregnant women may not have to resort to “clandestine” abortions thanks to medical advances. But they will still face challenges and potential criminalization if they want to terminate their pregnancies, said Elisabeth Smith, director of state policy and advocacy for the Center for Reproductive Rights.

The possibility of women being prosecuted for having abortions or for ordering pills online from a pharmacy – anywhere – is horrifying. No one should have to risk incarceration for exercising control over their own body. But that’s the world we’re heading into if Roe vs. Wade is knocked down.

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