Washington, DC—Yesterday the United States Supreme Court granted the Trump Administration’s request to stay a nationwide injunction in Food and Drug Administration, et al., v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, et al., requiring patients seeking medication abortions to face unnecessary risks and expense during the public health emergency by traveling to in-person appointments just to pick up a pill and sign a form. The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) calls upon the incoming Biden Administration to permanently remove these unnecessary restrictions.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) places significant restrictions on the drug combination (mifepristone and misoprostol) that can safely and effectively end early pregnancies and treat early miscarriages. Patients can only receive medication abortions from specific certified providers and only in person. As a result, of more than 20,000 FDA-regulated drug products, mifepristone is the only one that can be administered at home, but that the FDA requires to be picked up in person.
Medication abortions are safe and effective and can be life-saving. People who seek abortions are more likely to work in essential jobs, have less access to health care, and face greater health risks. Half are low-income and many are people of color.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the burden placed on abortion access by the unnecessary rules related to medication abortion. While the federal government has urged health care providers to use telehealth whenever possible, it continues to defend extreme restrictions on mifepristone. They may be forced to travel by bus, train, or plane, and they subject themselves to the financial burdens of missing work, costly childcare (sixty percent of abortion patients are already parents), transportation, and lodging arrangements.
On July 13, 2020, a judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland granted a preliminary injunction that ruled that the in-person dispensing requirements place an undue burden on patients’ constitutional rights to abortion care and severely jeopardizes the health and economic stability of patients, their families, and clinic staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) has partnered with state legal services, reproductive justice, reproductive health, and reproductive rights advocates across the country to ensure that state Medicaid agencies are in compliance with that important injunction, strengthening access to safe, legal, and effective abortions for beneficiaries.
“As an organization that works to protect the right to health, we are extremely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to reinstate these restrictions for individuals seeking abortion care,” said NHeLP Senior Attorney Fabiola Carrión. “Research, including studies coming from the medical community and national institutions, have concluded that medication abortion is absolutely safe and can be offered safely at the patient’s home. We implore the Biden Administration to permanently lift these restrictions and guarantee access to reproductive health care.”
“The first anti-abortion decision of the post-Ginsburg Supreme Court will make abortion access difficult and potentially deadly amid a raging pandemic,” said NHeLP Staff Attorney Madeline Morcelle. “The Supreme Court’s choice to re-inflict the FDA’s in-person dispensing and signature restrictions for mifepristone jeopardizes the lives of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, people with disabilities, and low-income communities, including Medicaid beneficiaries, across the country. We urge the Biden administration to take immediate action to not only lift these dangerous restrictions on an essential health care service during the Public Health Emergency, but end them for good.”