The American Food and Drug Administration has officially announced that abortion pills will now be accessible via mail. Nowadays, it’s estimated that about 40% of people worldwide who are seeking abortions use pills instead of undergoing surgery because they prefer to terminate pregnancies more privately at home. Nonetheless, many are also arguing that fewer restrictions to obtaining the pill may lead to less oversight and would put patients at risk of making the wrong decision.
The Historical Battle Over Abortion Rights
In terms of historical precedent, abortion laws and access have always been a major topic of contention. Roe v. Wade, the notable 1973 Supreme Court case in which abortions were legalized throughout the United States, established abortion as a fundamental right that is to be protected by the Constitution. Since then, however, the ruling has been the center of significant controversy and there have been several attempts to work around the loopholes of this law in order to restrict abortion access. With the turn of the 21st century, activism encouraging the pro-choice perspective of the issue has gone into full swing and has been met with a lot of opposition, which the pill’s approval has emphasized.
How Did This Change Happen?
Before COVID, doctors could only prescribe abortion pills to patients who could pick them up in person. Due to the encouragement to stay at home and the recent increase in telehealth medicare, the Biden administration had suspended that requirement for the time being, allowing them to be mailed to patients instead for at-home use. A coalition of medical and reproductive rights groups as well as civilian protesters have been pushing for the FDA to make this change permanent, and remove the in-person rule going forward. As a result, the FDA agreed to review the regulations and has officially changed the requirements so that abortion pills are accessible via mail in the United States going forward. Although a formal statement was not explicitly issued, the FDA updated the web page to reflect the decision and sent out letters about the change to the two companies that make the pills.
What Are Abortion Pills?
Abortion pills are tablets that can induce an abortion if ingested. The drug, mifepristone, is approved in combination with misoprostol to terminate pregnancies that have not yet hit the 10-week mark. The drugs block the hormone progesterone, which is needed for pregnancy, and empty out the uterus. Data from past years collected by the American Medical Association combined with the fact that Mifepristone has been used successfully in over 60 proves that mifepristone has built up a reliable record and can be safely administered.
Why is This Federal Action Important?
As more states, such as Texas, pass restrictions that make getting an abortion harder for the general public, efforts seeking to undo those restrictions, such as the authorization of mail-in abortion pills, are crucial to protecting women’s rights. The approval of the abortion pill is a major accomplishment for pro-choice advocates, especially in light of the recent controversy regarding abortion access in Texas. In particular, this change has been called a win by organizations like “Planned Parenthood” as the pills make it easier for women to obtain an abortion. Through the pills, women can avoid without being burdened by the time-consuming transportation process to the clinic and hefty costs of a medically-induced abortion. However, many anti-abortion advocates are outraged and claim that many mothers may be harmed and lives may be lost due to this new change. They argue that by skipping the “waiting period” many state clinics mandate women undergo before having an abortion, these patients may make rash decisions they will regret later on in life.
Despite the significant act, there remain hindrances to abortion access in many states Already, 19 states have banned receiving the drugs through telehealth appointments, rendering the FDA rule irrelevant, and other states have imposed other limitations such as mandating that the patients take the pills under a doctor’s supervision rather than at home. For example, shortly following the FDA law, a new law took effect in Texas that makes sending abortion pills through the mail a felony. Several lawmakers are passing their own restrictions which is causing the dampening of the great effect of this federal change. Nonetheless, this is a huge step forward for pro-choice activists in ensuring the constitutional right to have an abortion.