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US makes abortion pills available in retail pharmacies

January 4, 2023

The abortion pill gained more importance after the US Supreme Court's controversial decision last summer to overturn the 1973 Roe V. Wade ruling.

Pro-life-abortion and abortion rights demonstrators gather in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on June 25, 2022.
The pill is among the few options women seeking abortion in the US haveImage: Yasin Ozturk /AA/picture alliance

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a rule change on Tuesday allowing retail pharmacies, including large chains and mail-order companies, to offer abortion pills. 

The move comes as President Joe Biden's administration strives to secure more abortion rights after the Supreme Court's decision last summer to end the constitutional right to abortion.

 The Biden administration partially implemented the change last year, announcing it would no longer enforce a long-standing requirement that women pick up the medicine in person.

The FDA's decision now formally updates the drug's labeling to allow many more retail pharmacies to dispense the pills, so long as they complete a certification process.

Why is the move significant?

The abortion pill is seen as an important option for women in the US who wish to terminate their pregnancy.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, estimates that over half of abortions in the country are now done with pills rather than surgery.

The procedure involves two pills: mifepristone, which is taken first to stop the development of the pregnancy, and misoprostol, which is taken 24 to 48 hours later to expel pregnancy tissue.

Some legal experts expect the FDA decision to have little effect on the ground, with numerous state laws limiting women's access to the pills.

 Protesters hold signs in front of the Supreme Court during the Women's March and Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington, DC, on October 2, 2021.
The Biden administration has been working hard to enshrine more abortion rights since the reversal of Roe V. WadeImage: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

The pill gained more importance after the Supreme Court's controversial decision last summer to overturn the 1973 Roe V. Wade ruling.

Since the decision, the Biden administration has taken several steps to enshrine abortion rights nationwide, like, for instance, allowing states where abortion was not banned to apply for funds that could support women from out of state seeking abortion.

US reacts to reversal of Roe v. Wade

rmt/sri (AP, Reuters)