Drug Store Abortions Could Change Everything – But They Will Never Happen Under This Administration

From the moment that medication abortion was approved by the FDA in 2000, it has been under very strict control in the United States. Abortion rights activists quickly learned that rather than making abortion more accessible and private, regulations and labeling issues actually made RU-486 more difficult to obtain than a standard, non-medication procedure.

Now, 16 years later, doctors are asking the FDA to loosen its stranglehold on the medication, which has proven to be both highly effective and, if used correctly, very low risk. Unfortunately, the odds of the FDA listening are slim to none.

Mifeprex, the brand name for the combination of mifepristone and misoprostol — which, when taken together, stops the pregnancy from developing and then causes the uterus to expel the pregnancy and accompanying tissue — has reportedly caused 19 patient deaths out of the over 3 million pregnant people who took the medication. Adverse effects in general are also quite low and seldom require hospitalization.

Yet despite the safety of the medication and the simplicity of the procedure (take mifepristone then, within 48 hours, take misoprostol), the medication has a severe gate-keeping issue. Doctors must sign up with the distributor in order to offer the medicine, which means putting their names on a list of “abortion providers” and potentially opening themselves up to harassment.

For general OB/GYNS or family practitioners that would also require them stockpiling medication in their office, making it unlikely for a private physician to do so outside a clinic setting.

Now, medical experts are urging the FDA to change the rules and allow pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the medicine based on a doctor’s orders.

“We’d like to see Mifeprex be available in pharmacies like other drugs with a similar safety profile,” Princeton University public health researcher Kelly Cleland told Philly.com. Cleland was one of nine physicians to author a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine urging the FDA to loosen regulations on Mifeprex. Cleland suggested that a pregnant person could confirm a uterine pregnancy with an ultrasound outside of an abortion clinic setting, just as those who are continuing a pregnancy do, and simply fill a prescription written by their doctors at their local pharmacies, as one would for any drug. “We trust women and providers to make safe decisions for themselves.”

These doctors may trust women and providers, but unfortunately abortion opponents don’t, and they are firmly in control of many state governments. The last attempt to expand abortion access through medication abortion was quickly blocked as model legislation pushed by anti-abortion legal groups made it impossible for patients to participate in telemed abortions, which would allow them to go to one clinic, confirm a non-ectopic pregnancy, chat with a doctor over video, and then take medication in the clinic, reducing her travel burden.

Iowa’s successful expansion of abortion access via telemed was the only widespread effort, and was bogged down by state regulations and oversight as the state medical board tried repeatedly to shutter the program – despite no patient complains about the system. While the telemed program remained in place, during the process of litigation Planned Parenthood shuttered a number of their medication-only clinics in the state, making abortion once again less accessible. Other states have tried similar telemed programs, but none have included the vast locations that will make it a success that Iowa initially had.

Allowing pharmacies to stock medication abortion would solve much of the abortion access issue, especially in rural and red areas, but unfortunately such a change will never happen while President Donald Trump is in the White House. The Food and Drug Administration is under the wing of the Health and Human Services Department, now being run by HHS Secretary Tom Price. Considering Price’s utter disapproval of hormonal contraception, the idea of Price approving any sort of abortion expansion is laughable.

The reality is that medication abortion is a safe, private way to end a pregnancy, and despite that fact the rightwing will continue to make it as difficult to obtain as they can. Still, it’s never too soon to start the process to urge the FDA to change its policies on Mifeprex. After all, in four years there may be a much more progressive group of bureaucrats in charge.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

93 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M6 months ago

Ron G, not everybody follows your religion or your God. Secondly, this country was founded on separation of church and state as one of its principles (our Founding Fathers saw firsthand what a dangerous mix the two are and wanted to avoid that). Thirdly, women are PEOPLE whose rights outrank and supersede any perceived "rights" you wish to give to a nonsentient zygote/embryo/pre-viability fetus. To deny us the right to decide for ourselves what do to about an unwanted pregnancy is to deny us our personhood. Women are more than our uteri-we are PEOPLE who think, breathe, and VOTE for ourselves and ultimately for society. Can you give us a secular and scientifically-based argument why you think we should be tongueless brood mares suitable only for our breeding potential? If not, kindly keep your religion to yourself. Besides, you can't get pregnant anyway, so you have no idea what sacrifices women have to make for the kids they WANT. From a physical standpoint, your job is done as soon as you come. Women do the gestating, childbearing, lactating, and the majority of the raising. Not all women want to do that, and we DEFINITELY don't want to be like the Duggarites! I for one would be glad to see our reproductive rights expanded and the anti-choicers put in their place once and for all! Against abortion? The answer is simple-JUST DON'T HAVE ONE!!!!

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Jess B
Jess B6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Ann B
Ann B6 months ago

thanks

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Carl R
Carl R6 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Carl R
Carl R6 months ago

Thanks!!!

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Dot A
Dot A6 months ago

@ pam, - Who wisely points to the human condition of trauma being part of this journey, and women's trauma(s) having particular circumstances that men will not face. I believe that one of the traumas women deal with daily is the judgments that come down harshly upon the feminine gender, and the male of the species walk away without sensitizing themselves to the woman's highly demanding and responsible roles in life. Men who are ridged in their thinking and cold in their emotional responses to women's issues only add to that 'trauma' when an undesirable situation happens. I believe that on many occasions, the after-effect of feeling other people's harsh judgments can actually be what creates the emotional trauma. It can also effect the future life of the unwanted child. Women must be offered a choice in respect to procreative decisions. Men would demand it. Women must now take control of this issue, and make it their own right, and not let others direct her in a life-choices. This matter is far too important to let others dictate!

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Misss D
Miss D6 months ago

'One can become so traumatised by abortions, and now they want to sell them over the counter?' Wow, thanks for the concern, Margie F. Have you considered that proceeding with an unwanted pregnancy could also be just as, if not more, traumatic than an abortion? Or that some/many women are not actually traumatised by having an abortion at all?
Maybe we should all just butt out and leave it up to her and her doctor, huh?

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Anne F
Anne F6 months ago

Medication abortion is a medical matter. Let's cut the red tape and get the government out of way.

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pam w
pam w6 months ago

Margie...women can be ''so traumatized'' by many decisions in life...marrying the wrong man, choosing the wrong career, trusting the wrong investment company, etc. Are you suggesting that abortion should be banned because one woman in a thousand might traumatized later? Are you suggesting that YOU know how to prevent trauma by denying women their rights to private medical decisions?

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