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Supporters of reproductive choice take part in the nationwide 'Women's March,' held after Texas rolled out a near-total ban on abortion procedures and access to abortion-inducing medications, in New York City
The decision is a rare victory for those in support of freedom of reproductive choice, a bitter battle in the USImage: Caitlin Ochs/REUTERS
HealthUnited States of America

US regulators relax restrictions on abortion pill

December 17, 2021

The US health regulators announced permanently easing some restrictions on the pill used to terminate early pregnancies. The move comes amid a polarized legal battle over medication abortion.


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday eliminated a major requirement of only allowing Americans to pick up abortion pills at drug stores.

The federal health body said women could now receive a prescription after an online consultation and have the drug delivered to their homes.

Nearly 40% of Americans opt for abortion through pills rather than undergoing surgery. But the medication was dispersed to a smaller number of specialty clinics and doctors' offices.

The FDA stopped enforcing the in-person policy earlier this year due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has now eliminated the requirement permanently.

What did the FDA say?

FDA officials said a scientific review supported broadening access to the abortion pill. The review also included broadening the number of pharmacies that could supply people with the medication.

Those physicians prescribing pills would still need to undergo certification and training, health officials said.

The FDA's scientific review stems from a 2017 lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the federal agency's restrictions block or delay medical care, especially for people in low-income communities. 

But the effect of the decision to relax restrictions to the pill will vary state by state, since a number of Republican-controlled states have passed measures that limit access to it.

ACLU welcomes decision 

The ACLU welcomed the decision, saying the in-person restriction provided no safety benefit.

It said leading medical groups also agree with them.  The abortion pill, generally known as mifepristone, is approved for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. It can also be used to treat women who miscarry.

Opponents of the decision said it would result in more drug-related side effects and complications for women. 

'Roe v. Wade' hangs in the balance

The latest policy shift comes as advocates on both sides of abortion debate to see whether conservative Supreme Court justices will weaken or roll back the Roe v. Wade decision that guarantees the right to abortion nationwide. 

A case of whether to uphold a Mississippi law that bans terminations of pregnancy after 15 weeks has made its way to the country's highest court. 

The southern US state is one of several Republican-governed states in recent years to seek restrictive abortion laws. A ruling could see the landmark Roe v. Wade decision overturned.

rm/fb (AP, AFP) 

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