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Abortion Care Access Just Got Easier

Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash

Instead of traveling to a hospital, clinic or medical office to access the abortion pill during the Covid-19 pandemic, pregnant people can get prescribed the abortion pill to end an early-stage pregnancy by their healthcare provider in other ways, including at a health center, a local pharmacy or at home.

The reinstituted access comes after the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) suspended a rule that restricted people to travel for in-person dispensing of the abortion pill during Covid-19.

The rule disproportionately harmed Black, Indigenous and people of color, those in rural areas and those with low incomes, according to pro-choice advocacy group NARAL. These communities have also been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The in-person dispensing restriction—which the Trump administration fought to keep in place during the pandemic—prioritized ideology over science and endangered the health and well-being of Americans,” NARAL Pro-Choice America Chief Campaigns and Advocacy Officer Christian LoBue said in a statement. “The unfortunate reality is that medication abortion care remains out of reach for many due to additional medically unnecessary and ideologically motivated restrictions.”

The news was reported in a letter from FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The battle over the abortion pill drug, mifepristone, has been ongoing, with the Supreme Court reinstated the in-person dispensing rule in January, marking the first major abortion-related action since Justice Amy Coney Barrett replaced the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Politico reported.

“Requiring the medicine to be dispensed in person, then taken elsewhere at the patients’ discretion, is arbitrary and does nothing to bolster the safety of an already-safe medicine,” ACOG's Chief Executive Officer Maureen G. Phipps said in a statement.

Medication abortion care is a safe, effective and FDA-approved option, and prescribing the abortion pill remotely helps pregnant people stay safer and healthier during the Covid-19 pandemic, while also removing barriers in access to abortion care.

"Those in need of an abortion or miscarriage management will be able to do so safety and effectively by acquiring mifepristone though the mail—just as they would any other medication with a similarly strong safety profile,” Phipps said.

Title X Proposed Rule

In addition to increasing access to the abortion pill, the Biden administration made concrete steps to overturn the Title X gag rule, which was imposed by the Trump administration and severs federal funding for organizations with comprehensive reproductive health care that included abortion access.

The Title X family program supports roughly 4,000 service sites annually, with 4 million people relying on the program for essential services.

The “domestic gag rule” implemented by the Trump administration imposed “sweeping and destructive changes to Title X,” by prohibiting abortion referrals, imposing coercive counseling for pregnant patients and imposing strict separation from Title X-funded activities and abortion-related services, according to the Guttmacher Institute. About 1,000 clinics left the program due to the Trump-era regulations, and the prohibition extends to organizations that provide abortion care indirectly.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule to end the Title X gag rule April 14. The Biden administration was expected to overturn the rule, possibly as an executive order, as one its first actions in office.

The proposed rule from HHS was met with support from several healthcare organizations and advocacy groups.

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