This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would halt enforcement of the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone during the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision allows more people to obtain the medication through telemedicine appointments and mail-order pharmacies, without risking an avoidable COVID-19 exposure during an office visit. Read this joint statement from the president and CEO of ACOG for more perspective on why this decision is an important improvement for patient safety as well as medication abortion access.
This decision happened in part thanks to tireless advocacy from professional organizations like ACOG and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and because dedicated medical professionals from across our field shared their expertise and spoke up for best practices and best care during a public health emergency.
I am so heartened by this decision, which will lessen a barrier to essential reproductive health care for so many. At the same time, this decision only protects telemedicine/direct mail access through the pandemic, and it’s not clear what will happen when the pandemic ends. It’s also important to note that anti-abortion lawmakers and advocacy groups, anticipating Monday's policy shift, have been working to preemptively ban the pills or make them more difficult to obtain.
Improving access and availability of the full range of reproductive health care has been a key focus of my career in Wisconsin. I hope to devote much of my energy in the next stage of my career to advocating for reproductive rights in our state and beyond. There’s still so much work to be done to make sure everyone in our country can access the reproductive care they want or need, when they want or need it.
In the case of medication abortion, many states have enacted legislation that restricts who can prescribe mifepristone, whether people can receive prescriptions via telemedicine, and other restrictions that have a significant impact on quality of care. Wisconsin is not immune from these restrictions – and, in fact, our state has some of the most restrictive laws in the country regarding mediation abortion care delivery. Learn more about Wisconsin in this incredible article from UW SMPH MD/PhD and UW Collaborative for Reproductive Equity trainee Taryn Valley: “How Medication Abortion Legislation in Wisconsin Impedes Access to Safe Care.”
In short, there’s a long way to go! I applaud this week’s decision from the FDA, and I am ready to throw my weight behind the ongoing effort to protect reproductive health care for all.