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Easy Access to Abortion Pill Vital During Pandemic, FDA Told

June 16, 2020, 9:41 PM

The FDA should relax restrictions on a medication used for abortion during the pandemic to prevent unnecessary travel, over 100 members of the House said Tuesday in a letter to the agency.

Under the current rules, a person who wants to use mifepristone to help terminate a pregnancy must get it directly from their health-care provider. Mifepristone—which blocks progesterone and stops a pregnancy from advancing—is typically used in combination with a second pill, misoprostol—which causes cramping and bleeding that empties the uterus—when used to terminate a pregnancy. Misoprostol is available at pharmacies with a prescription.

Mifepristone isn’t available in pharmacies and can’t be mailed directly to patients, which puts an unnecessary burden on someone seeking “constitutionally-protected reproductive health care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and over 100 other lawmakers said in a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

The agency didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Several groups have sued over the Food and Drug Administration’s mifepristone policy, including including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The group argued in a lawsuit filed in late May that the agency should lift its restrictions on mailing the pill to patients. Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma want to help the FDA defend its prohibition on mailing mifepristone.

“For many patients, this requirement can mean taking public transportation, riding in someone else’s car, or traveling hundreds of miles away from home to another county or state—significantly increasing their risk of exposure to the virus,” the lawmakers wrote. “It also means that some providers and clinic staff are forced to have unnecessary in-person interactions that increase their own exposure risks.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee in Washington at jlee1@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com