Federal Judge Eases Abortion Drug Access During Pandemic

By Mary Margaret Olohan Published on July 15, 2020

A federal judge suspended restrictions placed on abortion drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Monday requiring women to visit a hospital, clinic, or medical office before obtaining abortion drugs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ruling comes as both pro-life supporters and pro-choice advocates fight over abortion access during the pandemic: pro-lifers lobby for governors to ban abortions as medically unnecessary procedures, while pro-abortion advocates call for continued and increased abortion access despite the pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang wrote in his 80-page decision Monday that “in person requirements” present a “substantial obstacle” for women seeking abortion drugs during the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press. The ruling will allow women to receive the abortion drug mifepristone through the mail or through delivery during the pandemic, the publication reports.

“Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm,” Chuang wrote, according to the AP.

He added: “By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the In-Person Requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients.”

The FDA had approved the use of the abortion drug mifepristone (also called Mifeprex) up to 10 weeks’ gestation, though some abortion providers still use the abortion drug during the second trimester of a pregnancy, but explicitly warned that buyers “should not buy Mifeprex over the Internet because you will bypass important safeguards designed to protect your health (and the health of others).”

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Under current FDA approved REMS, a health care provider must supervise the order, prescription, and dispensation of mifepristone. Only healthcare providers who meet “certain qualifications” may do so. The abortion drug also may “only be dispensed in clinics, medical offices, and hospitals by or under the supervision of a certified healthcare provider.”

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Pro-abortion advocates had expressed fear that the pandemic would hinder abortion access, lobbying for the FDA to remove it’s protections (REMS) on abortion drugs. Pro-lifers had fought back against these suggestions, insisting that the coronavirus pandemic was not the time to ease abortion restrictions.

March for Life President Jeanne Mancinci lamented in a statement that “common-sense FDA regulations for women’s health have been sacrificed in the name of ‘access to abortion.’”

“Chemical abortion is much harder on women’s health; studies have shown that women who choose chemical abortion are four times more likely to suffer severe complications than they are as a result of surgical abortion and should therefore have more oversight, not less,” she said in a statement provided to the DCNF.

She continued: “A woman who undergoes chemical abortion without having an ultrasound risks the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy which could result in death. It is deeply troubling that a Federal District Judge would make such a decision placing women’s health at much greater risk.”


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