Supreme Court Allows Women To Continue Receiving The Abortion Pill By Mail For Now
The Supreme Court declined to reinstate FDA restrictions on the abortion pill, which requires patients to personally pick up the medicine. (Photo: Illustration: HuffPost; Photo: Getty Images)
Women seeking the abortion pill during the coronavirus pandemic can still receive the drug in the mail for the time being, the Supreme Court said Thursday.
The court turned down an offer from the Trump administration to reintroduce a requirement that patients must personally visit a clinic or doctor's office to receive the pill.
It was the court's first complaint regarding reproductive rights since Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, and it was a barge: the unsigned order required a lower court judge to come back on the matter within 40 days deal and decide falls after the presidential election.
Drug termination, or the abortion pill commonly known as the abortion pill, is actually a combination of two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. Taken together, they essentially cause a miscarriage. It is one of the most common methods of terminating pregnancies in the United States.
Women can take the pills in the privacy of their own home at a time of their choosing for the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Today, about 40% of abortions in the United States are performed with medication.
The longstanding regulations of the Food and Drug Administration on mifepristone, called REMS, dictate that the drug may only be sold by a healthcare provider in a medical setting. Patients must physically pick up the drug from a doctor, although they can swallow the pill at home. According to these rules, mifepristone cannot be dispensed in pharmacies or sent by post.
In May, reproductive health care providers including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sued the FDA for temporarily blocking the requirement that patients must be given drug discontinuation in person during the pandemic. They argued that the dispensing request puts patients and clinicians at unnecessary risk of contracting the virus. The lawsuit states that, out of more than 20,000 FDA-approved drugs, mifepristone is the only one that patients must receive in person in a clinical setting but are allowed to take unsupervised elsewhere.
In July, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang issued a statewide injunction against the FDA requirement that allowed women to receive the abortion pill in the mail for the duration of the pandemic.
"The personal requirements associated with the COVID19 pandemic are a significant barrier in the path of women seeking drug discontinuation. This can delay or preclude drug discontinuation and therefore require a more invasive procedure," Chuang wrote. "Particularly given the limited timeframe in which a drug abortion or abortion must take place, such a violation of the right to abortion would be irreparable."
In August, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the FDA's motion to postpone Chuang's order while the FDA was on appeal. The Trump administration then went to the Supreme Court.
Drug abortion has emerged as a new front as reproductive rights groups push for improved access while conservatives seek to reduce it.
"It is a relief that the Trump administration cannot force patients seeking early abortion, at least for the next few weeks, to take unnecessary risks of developing a life-threatening illness in order to receive care," said Julia Kaye, attorney the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project HR department, in a statement. "But if the president has vowed to appoint a new judiciary that will override Roe v. Wade, the fact that the Supreme Court has decided to stay out of this particular battle for the time being is hardly an indication that the law is abortion is safe. "
The FDA's restrictions on abortion drugs are not scientifically founded, Skye Perryman, chief legal officer of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in a statement.
Research has shown that drug abortion is safe and effective. Over 3.7 million women have used it to terminate their pregnancy since its approval.
"The personal dispensing request ... is not required for patient safety and is another example of how women's health is of a different standard than the rest of medicine," Perryman said.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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