A coalition of 21 attorneys general is urging the federal government to lift restrictions on mifepristone, a drug used in medication abortion, so that women who want to terminate a pregnancy do not have to embark on unnecessary travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
Medication abortion, often referred to as the "abortion pill," is a safe and effective way to end a pregnancy before 10 weeks. Women take a combination of two drugs, usually spaced 24 hours apart, that essentially induce a miscarriage. About 40% of abortions in the U.S. use this method.
Currently, women must travel in person to an abortion clinic to pick up the medication, even though the termination generally takes place at home. That's because mifepristone, the first of the two drugs used in medication abortion, is subject to a special set of U.S. Food and Drug Administration restrictions called Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Under the REMS, a person seeking a medication abortion cannot obtain the drugs from a pharmacy or in the mail. The drugs can only be dispensed in a medical facility.
In a letter to the FDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday, the attorneys general urged the Trump administration to allow mifepristone to be prescribed using telemedicine.
"Due to the REMS, patients have to travel to a designated clinic, medical office or hospital, as opposed to getting a prescription from their doctor using telehealth and then obtaining mifepristone at a local pharmacy or delivered by mail," the letter says. "The FDA should not mandate this medically unnecessary travel, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis where not only are women being advised to stay home, but families are faced with additional childcare and financial constraints."
Since its approval in 2000, about 3 million women in the U.S. have used mifepristone. Leading medical groups such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have advised the FDA to ease restrictions on the drug and make it available in retail pharmacies.
A college student in Texas recently described to HuffPost how scary it was to have to drive for 12 hours to pick up the drugs for her medication abortion as the coronavirus outbreak was upending life in the state.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, who signed on to Monday's letter, said that control over one's reproductive freedom should not be limited to those able to leave their homes.
"As the coronavirus spreads across the country and residents are asked to stay at home, the federal government should be doing everything in its power to ensure women can maintain control of their reproductive choices," James said in a press release. "Our coalition is calling on the federal government to make mifepristone more easily accessible so that no woman is forced to risk her health while exercising her constitutional right to an abortion."