By Adrienne R. Ghorashi, Esq.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suspended an in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patients to access medication abortion by mail.
Previously, the FDA REMS requirement mandated that mifepristone must be dispensed in person, forcing patients to travel to a clinic in order to pick up the medication. In light of the pandemic, the requirement would lead to unnecessary risks of COVID exposure for patients and providers, in addition to imposing logistical and financial burdens.
This FDA decision is the latest development in a battle that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. In its first abortion decision since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the bench, the Supreme Court reinstated the in-person dispensing requirement after it had previously been blocked by a federal district court in Maryland due to the risks of COVID-19.
Advocates for abortion access are celebrating the FDA decision as a win for science and evidence-based policy rooted in a growing body of research on the benefits of medication abortion and telemedicine for abortion.