Amid the pro-life vs pro-choice fight, Biden administration makes access to abortion pills easier

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Dec 17, 2021, 08:36 AM(IST)

The move comes at a time when Republican-led states are passing laws that restrict women's abortion rights, and as a decision is awaited by the country's Supreme Court that could potentially reverse abortion as a constitutional right.  Photograph:( Reuters )

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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the in-person rule was dropped. This policy was reinstated by the Trump administration, only to be dropped again by the administration of Biden, a Democrat. Now, it is permanent.

In a rare victory for the pro-choice movement in an increasingly bitter battle over reproductive rights, US President Joe Biden's administration ruled Thursday that abortion pills would be available by mail permanently, not just during the Covid pandemic.

An earlier in-person requirement had been criticised not only by activist groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) but also by health groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA).

The move comes at a time when Republican-led states are passing laws that restrict women's abortion rights, and as a decision is awaited by the country's Supreme Court that could potentially reverse abortion as a constitutional right. 

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FDA detailed the new rule in a letter sent to plaintiffs in a case seeking to ease abortion medication regulations.  

In the letter, the ACLU stated that mifepristone is no longer restricted to clinics, medical offices or hospitals. The FDA, however, requires pharmacies that dispense it to be specially certified.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the in-person rule was dropped. This policy was reinstated by the Trump administration, only to be dropped again by the administration of Biden, a Democrat. Now, it is permanent.

"The FDA's decision to permanently remove the in-person pill pick-up requirement is a major step forward that will enable many more patients to get this safe and time-sensitive medication as soon as they are ready, without travel-related expenses and delay," said Georgeanne Usova, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU in a statement.

The two drugs used in medication abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol, can be safely used up until 10 weeks of pregnancy.

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Mifepristone blocks progesterone, which is vital to pregnancy development, preventing pregnancy. The birth control pill misoprostol, taken 24 to 48 hours after mifepristone, empties the uterus by causing cramping and bleeding, an effect similar to that of miscarriage.

These drugs have become increasingly popular since they were approved by the FDA in 2000, and they now account for at least 40 per cent of all abortions.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that when administered at nine weeks or less gestation, 99.6 per cent of all pregnancies are successfully terminated, with a 0.4 per cent risk of complications and a death rate of 0.001 per cent.

Anti-abortion groups, however, condemned the decision.

"The Biden administration's reckless move puts countless women and unborn children in danger," said Sue Liebel of the Susan B. Anthony List. 

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According to the ACLU, the decision to ease federal restrictions will not affect state-level restrictions on mifepristone. 

However, the group added that it would expand the options and capacity of states with an influx of out-of-state women seeking abortions due to abortion bans in their home states.

Legal observers predict that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v Wade, which enshrines the constitutional right to abortion, next spring, which would lead to state-level bans on abortion.

(With inputs from agencies)

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