2023 kicked off this week with significant news for abortion access. On Tuesday, January 3, 2023, the FDA codified its December 2021 lifting of the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone and announced a protocol that will allow retail pharmacies to offer mifepristone with a prescription from a certified healthcare provider. CVS and Walgreens confirmed that they will offer mifepristone where it is legal, opening access to more Americans who may not have nearby abortion services.
Also on Tuesday, the Justice Department issued a legal opinion that the U.S. Postal Service may continue to deliver abortion pills to people in any state, regardless of local abortion restrictions or bans.
Mifepristone and misoprostol (which is not subject to the same restrictions as mifepristone) are commonly referred to as abortion pills. The pills also help manage early pregnancy loss, and misoprostol is used for several other purposes.
In Maine, even though many of our clinics serve rural communities, abortion and pregnancy loss care will be even more accessible in underserved communities through pharmacies and mail orders, though we know that many will continue to prefer the privacy of obtaining pills at places like Maine Family Planning or other providers of reproductive services rather than a public retail pharmacy.
We celebrate these milestones while emphasizing that more work needs to be done. Currently, pharmacies have to receive certification from the Mifepristone REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) Program to dispense mifepristone, along with several additional steps that require pharmacy participation. These barriers make the process to dispense mifepristone more difficult, and could also be at the discretion of individuals looking to block abortion access, regardless of patient need. The FDA is still supporting “abortion exceptionalism,” basing their classification of mifepristone within REMS on political grounds rather than scientific, despite its overwhelming safety record.
Abortion bans harm communities, families and individuals. We must continue to advocate for eliminating medically unnecessary restrictions on medication abortion and remove barriers to access for all abortion seekers.