BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – In the wake of what Roe v. Wade’s 50th anniversary, the Biden administration announced this week that it was taking executive action to help protect medication abortions. It comes as some GOP lawmakers are pushing for a federal ban on all abortions.
“The right of every woman in every state in this country to make decisions about her own body is at stake,” Vice President Kamala Harris said Sunday, announcing President Biden’s two-point memorandum ordering his administration to “identify and recommend barriers to access. actions to ensure that: doctors can legally prescribe, doctors can dispense and women can ensure safe and effective medication.”
Medications such as Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, block the pregnancy hormone progesterone. This is the first pill to be taken in the two-drug medication abortion regimen. In conjunction with misoprostol – which goes by the brand name Cytotec – Mifepristone is used to terminate a pregnancy through 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Before the FDA’s Jan. 3 decision allowing patients to pick up an abortion pill at drug stores with a prescription, a qualified health care provider was required to administer Mifepristone in person.
“This meant that a patient came into the office, saw me, was counseled by their provider, and had any additional tests to confirm their pregnancy and that they were candidates for the method. And then we will give them their medication directly from the office,” explains Dr. Lauren MacAfee, an OB-GYN at the UVM Medical Center.
During the pandemic, federal regulators loosened the restriction that allowed clinicians to mail the medication to patients. This most recent rule change takes that step a step further. MacAfee says the decision benefits people who live in rural areas or rely on telehealth. “Who might have an ultrasound done in, say, a local emergency department, then have a telemedicine visit with a provider and not necessarily have to travel just to get that medication,” she said.
National pharmacies such as Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens have all announced their intention to complete the Mifepristone certification process in states without medication abortion bans such as Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. Kinney Drugs said in a statement that it is “in the process of carefully and thoroughly evaluating the requirements to certify our pharmacies to carefully and thoroughly evaluate Mifepristone under its FDA REMS program.”
But since the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade overturned seven months ago, abortion opponents are suing the FDA to remove Mifepristone from the market after more than two decades. Vice President Harris says 22 states have already refused to follow this new federal rule.
Medication abortion accounted for 51% of all abortions in the country in 2020, according to the CDC. Both the FDA and CDC emphasize that this is scientifically proven and that Mifepristone is extremely safe and effective when used as prescribed. It is not available to buy over the counter.
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