A coalition of three Democratic women in the Senate implored the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to revise current regulations restricting the use of mifepristone—a drug used in administering medicated abortions—in order to reduce the need for patients to travel during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The FDA currently classifies mifepristone, the first of two medications required to terminate a pregnancy, under a particularly restrictive set of safety protocols known as the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program. Under REMS, a patient is prohibited from picking up their prescription at a pharmacy or having the medication sent to their residence, and must instead get the pills directly from an abortion clinic in-person.
The drug-induced abortion is the most common way pregnancies in the first 10 weeks are terminated, and accounts for approximately 40-percent of all abortions in the United States.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday penned a letter urging the FDA to drop the REMS requirements for mifepristone so that patients aren’t required to unnecessarily travel to health care facilities, which would put them at greater risk of contracting the virus, when the medication is ultimately meant to be taken at home anyway.
“People who need an abortion cannot delay care and should not needlessly risk coronavirus exposure,” the senators wrote. “Given the years of scientific evidence indicating that medication abortion is a safe and effective treatment, we ask that FDA take immediate steps to temporarily exercise enforcement discretion on in-person dispensing requirements, so that people can more easily access abortion care without putting themselves or their health care providers at risk of infection from COVID-19.”
The Senators’ call to loosen restrictions comes a time when states, Texas chief among them, have used the pandemic as an opportunity to place restrictions on abortions by classifying the procedure as “non-essential.”
“Despite growing calls to take up measures that maintain medical care while limiting face-to-face medical interaction when possible, steps to protect access to reproductive health care have not been taken in the same way,” the senators wrote. “In fact, some states are actively restricting abortion care access, which both jeopardizes the health and well-being of patients seeking this time-sensitive health care and necessitates greater use of health care resources for prenatal, miscarriage, and childbirth care.”
See below for full letter:
[image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images]
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