April 26, 2021
Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) applauds the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for moving to increase access to the abortion pill, mifepristone. As of April 12, the FDA will temporarily allow mifepristone to be dispensed by mail for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Patients are now able to obtain a safe and effective abortion pill through a telemedicine consult, without risking exposure to COVID-19 with an in-person visit.
Though mifepristone has been used in the United States for more than 20 years to safely and effectively end early pregnancies and treat early miscarriage, the FDA has placed particular restrictions on mifepristone when it’s used for pregnancy termination. Unlike other medications, patients can only obtain the abortion pill directly from a certified medical provider who has a prescriber agreement with the drug manufacturer.
In the early months of the pandemic, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other provider groups filed a lawsuit that challenged these restrictions and subsequently won the suit to temporarily lift the restrictions to abortion care during the pandemic.
“This was a win for women’s health, but more importantly for women who live in rural and medically underserved communities who rely on telemedicine for their health care,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg.
The win, however, was short-lived. In January 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of an appeal by the Trump Administration that put an end to the temporary lift, effectively restricting patient access to medication abortion care.
On April 11, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, sent a letter to ACOG and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), stating that the FDA reviewed recent evidence and found that using telemedicine to provide abortion pills would not increase risks and would help patients avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.
“While we welcome this temporary change, we urge the FDA to continue to review the evidence and scientific data and permanently lift unnecessary restrictions beyond the public health emergency. If it’s safe enough to prescribe through telemedicine during COVID, then it is clearly safe enough to use beyond COVID,” said Greenberg. “We hope the FDA will consider the vast health and socioeconomic benefits that increased access to medically safe abortion via telemedicine would pose for women who rely on this essential reproductive service.”
About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.