FDA moves to reinstate by-mail abortion pill access, citing COVID-19 pandemic
16.04.2021 | Kirsten Williams | Vermont Law School, US APRIL 14, 2021 07:11:24 PM | 46
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock on Monday announced that the agency will allow abortion pills by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic—a departure from a Trump-era rule requiring patients to go in-person to a medical clinic or hospital.
Woodcock’s communication came via a letter sent to two leading non-profit organizations representing reproductive health medical professionals, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. She noted that the FDA’s studies “do not appear to show increases in serious safety concerns (such as hemorrhage, ectopic pregnancy, or surgical interventions) occurring with medical abortion as a result of modifying the in-person dispensing requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The agency’s decision reverses former president Donald Trump’s requirement that patients pick up their abortion pills in-person, implemented by former FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn. The ACOG, along with several other reproductive health organizations, challenged the requirement in federal court. Last July, a US District judge in Maryland ruled that it was unconstitutional to mandate in-person hospital and doctor visits for those seeking abortions during the pandemic and granted an injunction preventing the FDA from enforcing the requirement.
The Trump administration appealed the decision to the US Supreme Court and applied for a stay of the injunction. It argued that “at a minimum, the injunction [was] overly broad in scope, given that it applies nationwide and for an indefinite duration regardless of the improving [COVID-19] conditions in any individual state.” The court declined to reinstate the in-person requirement in October.
The court ultimately granted the administration’s stay request in January with a 6-3 vote. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, arguing that the in-person pick-up requirement does nothing to promote women’s safety. It was the first abortion case since Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court.