Medication abortions have are a safe and accessible method of terminating pregnancy, but they have been targeted by onerous FDA restrictions
Sun 1 Nov 2020
With six conservative justices now sitting on the supreme court, the future of abortion access in US looks increasingly uncertain. But in addition to concerns about whether abortion clinics can stay open, activists are warning that lesser-known abortion medications are also under threat.
Medication abortions have been proven to be a safe and effective method of terminating pregnancy, and because they can be completed without doctor supervision, they serve as a crucial alternative for those who have had other abortion services shuttered in their state, or who do not feel safe accessing traditional health services.
Medication Abortion and Telemedicine: Innovations and Barriers During the COVID-19 Emergency
Amrutha Ramaswamy, Gabriela Weigel, Laurie Sobel
Jun 08, 2020
State actions in response to the COVID-19 crisis have highlighted their divergent approaches to abortion access. Some states classified abortion as a non-essential service, effectively banning services, while others have clarified that abortion is an essential service. In a handful of states, some clinics have begun to offer medication abortions using telemedicine. This approach maintains access to abortion while social distancing, preserving personal protective equipment (PPE), and limiting in-person health care visits and risk of exposure.
In 2017, 39% of all abortions in the U.S. were medication abortions (also known as abortions induced by pills). These abortions are provided using two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol. While public knowledge about medication abortion is very low, even fewer people may be aware that telemedicine can aid in the provision of this service. Research shows that providing medication abortion by telemedicine is clinically feasible and safe, but COVID-19 has highlighted the impact of new and existing federal and state restrictions on providing abortions using this approach.
Feminist Multi-Front Battle to End FDA’s Abortion Pill Restriction
by Carrie N. Baker
Feminists have been fighting a defensive battle to protect abortion rights for years—but today some are taking the offense, pushing to expand abortion access by calling for the removal of FDA restriction on the abortion pill mifepristone.
Formerly known as RU-486, mifepristone ends pregnancy by blocking the effects of the hormone progesterone, which sustains pregnancy. Used in combination with another drug—misoprostol, which causes contractions to complete an abortion—mifepristone is extremely safe.
No-Test Medication Abortion Increases Safety and Access During COVID-19
A new study proposes an innovative, no-test medication abortion protocol that would enable clinicians to safely administer medication abortion to patients without any preliminary tests or in-person encounters
by Carrie N. Baker
Imagine a world where women could access safe and supported abortion health care without ever leaving their homes. In this world, after a phone call or video conference with a health care professional, women could receive the abortion pill in the mail, which they could take safely in the privacy of their own homes under the supervision of a clinician.
No invasive, time-consuming pelvic exams or blood tests. No state-mandated ultrasounds or waiting periods requiring multiple visits. No walking past lines of screaming anti-abortion protesters. No driving long distances, having to find and pay for child care, or taking time off from work. No exposure to COVID-19.
Amid Covid-19, a Call for M.D.s to Mail the Abortion Pill
For decades, the consensus has been that F.D.A. regulations require that the abortion pill be obtained in a clinic. But that’s changing.
By Patrick Adams
May 12, 2020
Last fall, months before America’s first outbreak of the coronavirus, Francine Coeytaux and Elisa Wells, co-founders of the abortion rights advocacy group Plan C, were reaching out to doctors with a question they said was urgent:
“Would you be willing to mail the ‘abortion pills’ to women in their homes?”
Coronavirus crisis magnifies existing challenges to abortion access
May 07, 2020
In our recent book, Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America, David Cohen and I detail the considerable difficulties many people have in accessing abortion care. The relative scarcity of clinics means long travel for many; that abortion patients are disproportionately low-income women of color means hardship in paying for the procedure, particularly since the majority of states do not allow Medicaid funds to be used for abortion; the onerous waiting periods in many states often mean women have to stay overnight in a distant city, leading to the additional costs of lodging and more days of lost wages; confrontations with protestors at the clinic sites themselves can often be deeply upsetting. All these barriers have increased exponentially with the coming of COVID-19, and some new problems have been added as well.
FDA Should Lift Abortion Pill Restrictions, Says Former Agency Head
Jane Henney says the restrictions are dangerous during a pandemic because they require unnecessary travel and contact between patients and providers.
by Marie Solis
Apr 27 2020
For two decades, the Food and Drug Administration has maintained restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone that require patients to receive it from a licensed provider at a hospital or clinic, despite overwhelming evidence that shows the drug is safe and effective to take outside of immediate medical supervision. For patients, that has meant that instead of filling a prescription at the pharmacy—as we do with countless other medications—they must face all the obstacles to accessing abortion clinics, which dwindle in number every year, just to be handed a pill.
“Stay Home and Have the Baby”
Texas and Ohio have ordered a stop to abortions, saying they’re not essential medical services. Other states will follow. Right-wing forces are using the pandemic as a pretext to crack down dramatically on abortion rights. We can’t let them.
By Jenny Brown
Texas and Ohio have ordered a stop to abortions, saying they’re not essential medical services, while state officials in Mississippi and Maryland are edging that direction. Their coronavirus prevention program is “Stay home and have the baby.”
The states argued that equipment such as masks used for surgical abortions could be used for care of COVID-19 patients. And they claim if anything goes wrong emergency services would be needed, exaggerating the risk of a safe procedure.
How Anti-Abortion Activists Are Taking Advantage of the Coronavirus Crisis
By Robin Marty
March 24, 2020
In just two weeks the novel coronavirus managed exactly what anti-abortion activists struggled for nearly five decades to accomplish: it is the biggest threat to legal abortion in America ever imagined. The entire globe is facing completely uncharted territory in public health, and many are working to address the pandemic by implementing telemedicine and other online tools to care for everyday health needs while COVID-19 patients inundate hospitals. This could help people in need of abortions, too — if legalized, doctors could remotely prescribe medication to be taken at home that would terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks. Yet despite having a safe and effective means of ending an early pregnancy without any need to physically see a medical professional, abortion opponents are instead using this moment to close as many abortion clinics as possible throughout the U.S. — an action that will lead to another health system crisis even if COVID-19 is contained.
The FDA Could Improve Abortion Access Under Coronavirus But It Won't
Abortion pills have to be picked up in person at a clinic. Advocates say that has to change during the pandemic.
by Christine Grimaldi
Mar 19 2020
When Donald Trump used “two very big words” to declare a national emergency over the novel coronavirus on Friday, he bragged about giving his top health official the “ability to waive laws to enable telehealth” during the pandemic. But it appears that the president’s latitude will not apply to medication abortion care, a federal agency confirmed to VICE.
People who want to end their pregnancies will have to navigate the same restrictions as always, which will become all the more complicated in a pandemic environment.