On December 16, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) committed to a new policy that allows patients to receive abortion pills by mail.
Prior FDA policy required patients to go in person to obtain the pills from a certified health provider. Its new policy allows patients to instead have a telemedicine appointment with a certified provider who can then prescribe the pills and send them to the patient by mail.
However, in some states, this will have a much lesser impact on access to abortion. State laws supersede the FDA’s new policy, and currently 19 states have laws that still require in-person visits for medication abortion. These states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The FDA maintains several restrictions on medication abortion. Currently, the following restrictions remain in place:
- Mifepristone, which is the first of two pills that together end an early pregnancy, must be prescribed by or under the supervision of a certified healthcare provider who meets certain qualifications, including signing a Prescriber Agreement Form;
- The healthcare provider must obtain a signed Patient Agreement Form from the patient after counseling and prior to prescribing mifepristone; and
- Pharmacies that dispense mifepristone must be certified.
The FDA reports that mifepristone is approved to end a pregnancy through 10 weeks of gestation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42 percent of all abortions within United States in 2019 occurred with medication, and 79 percent of all abortions occurred before 10 weeks’ gestation.