Reproductive Rights, Health, and Justice Groups Call on Biden Administration to Expand Access to Medication Abortion

March 18, 2021 11:00 am

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WASHINGTON — A coalition of reproductive rights, health, and justice groups sent petitions signed by more than 200,000 supporters and a letter signed by 55 organizations today asking the Biden administration to take immediate action to expand access to medication abortion.

The ACLU joined with more than a dozen partners to submit the petitions, which included signatures from nearly 50,000 ACLU supporters. They call on the administration to immediately act to lift harmful restrictions on mifepristone, a safe and effective medication used for early abortion and miscarriage care.

The letter urges the administration to prioritize these actions. The groups call for immediate suspension of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone during the pandemic, as well as a full FDA review of its outdated and unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone.

“The Biden administration promised to follow the science. In this case it couldn’t be clearer: The FDA’s restrictions on medication abortion are unnecessary, outdated, and only serve to obstruct access to care, further deepening health inequities for those who are struggling most,” said Georgeanne Usova, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU. “No one should have to navigate medically unnecessary obstacles in order to get essential, time-sensitive health care — particularly during a pandemic, when that means risking needless exposure to a deadly virus. The administration must act now to ensure that everyone can safely access medication abortion care during the pandemic, as well as after it ends.”

The FDA subjects mifepristone, a prescription medication that has been FDA-approved for more than two decades, to a unique and onerous set of restrictions, including a requirement that patients travel in person to a clinical setting just to pick up the pill and sign a form, even when they will be receiving no medical services at that time. Of more than 20,000 FDA-regulated drugs, mifepristone is the only one that patients must pick up in a clinical setting even though they are permitted to take it unsupervised at the location of their choice. This in-person pick-up requirement is forcing people to risk unnecessary COVID-19 exposure as a condition of accessing essential health care, and disproportionately impacts people of color and people with low incomes, who have been harmed most severely by the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy had been suspended for six months during the pandemic due to a lawsuit brought by the ACLU on behalf of leading medical and reproductive justice organizations, but in January, the Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to reinstate the policy, despite record rates of new COVID-19 cases.

The groups called on the Biden administration to immediately suspend enforcement of the mifepristone in-person requirement during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, consistent with FDA’s actions with regard to other drugs during the pandemic. They also called for the FDA to conduct a comprehensive review of the full set of restrictions on mifepristone to ensure that, even after the pandemic, patients are not forced to navigate unnecessary barriers that push care out of reach. Although FDA acknowledged in 2016 that mifepristone’s safety and efficacy are now “well-established,” the agency has retained the same severe restrictions it first imposed on mifepristone in 2000.

Even before the pandemic, the FDA’s restrictions on mifepristone were opposed by leading medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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