August 24, 2020

Judge Allows Pharmacies to Mail and Dispense Abortion Pills During Pandemic

Photo credit: Brett Jordan / Unsplash
In an August 19 court order, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that pharmacies can distribute abortion pills either in a pharmacy or over the mail; bypassing FDA safety regulations.

In response to a lawsuit by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang ruled that pharmacies can now distribute abortion pills to those who obtain prescriptions from a healthcare professional. Beforehand, individuals who wished to obtain abortion pills would have to see a healthcare professional in-person to receive pills.

Specifically, the new order reads (in part):

This requirement that dispensing by mail or delivery service remain “by or under the supervision of a certified healthcare provider” permits mifepristone to be sent from a drug sponsor to a certified healthcare provider in the care of a mail-order pharmacy if the pharmacy has a contractual agreement with the certified healthcare provider to receive mifepristone on behalf of the healthcare provider and then to mail the drug to a patient at the direction of that healthcare provider, so long as the drugs were specifically ordered from the drug sponsor by the certified healthcare provider and held on the provider’s behalf, and the mail-order pharmacy has no right to distribute those drugs except at the direction of the certified healthcare provider.

The FDA places mifepristone, the first part of the two-stage abortion pill regimen, under REMS regulations due to the danger it can pose to women. It has the potential to cause side-effects such as hemorrhage (which can lead to death), and the risks are increased if the pregnant mother has an undiagnosed condition such as ectopic pregnancy or is taking the pill later in her child's gestational development.

An in-person visit to a healthcare professional could ensure a woman's safety by diagnosing pregnancy conditions or identifying the unborn child's gestational age. By doing so, a healthcare professional would ensure the woman's safety during the abortion process. These changes enacted by the District Court endanger women by providing them with dangerous drugs before they have had the appropriate medical screening.

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