Telemedicine Abortion Gets Green Light From Federal Court
Judge frees abortion pill from doctor visits (for now). A federal court ruled Monday that women seeking abortion pills during the COVID-19 pandemic should not have to visit a doctor in order to obtain them.
Under current rules set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), non-surgical abortion— i.e., the kind that’s induced by pharmaceuticals, not physicians—still requires patients to visit a hospital, doctor’s office, or medical clinic to be prescribed the abortion drugs, even though a patient will go through the process at home.
“A medical or medication abortion uses two drugs to terminate a pregnancy,” explains a new report, “Prescription Denied: Accessing the Abortion Pill,” from Newsy. The first of these pills, mifepristone, “blocks a hormone to induce the abortion. The second drug, misoprostol, completes it by expelling the pregnancy. But mifepristone, which for medication abortion goes by the brand name Mifeprex, is among the most restricted drugs in the U.S. which makes it challenging to get. … the Food and Drug Administration imposes tighter restrictions on Mifeprex than on opioids such as fentanyl.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the National Women’s Health Network (NWHN), and other groups have been pushing the FDA to revise its rules so that abortion patients can see doctors via telemedical appointments and then receive their pills in the mail.
“If the laws and regulations that determine the terms of abortion access in the United States were based on science—not politics—medication abortion would be widely available in the United States without medically unnecessary restrictions on distribution,” states an open letter signed by a range of physicians and health and advocacy groups.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang seemed to be in agreement with these advocates and doctors, writing in his decision that “in-person requirements” for abortion pills present a “substantial obstacle” to patients and are likely unconstitutional.
The judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the FDA’s rules on mifepristone for abortions until at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares an end to our current public health emergency.
“We look forward to a day when federal reproductive health care policy is grounded in science, not animus, and this medically baseless requirement is lifted once and for all,” said Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Reproductive Freedom Project, in a statement.
The lawsuit challenging the FDA’s rules on abortion drugs was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the AGOC and other groups. (“In addition to the case decided today, the ACLU has another case challenging a broader range of FDA restrictions on medication abortion care that was filed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the organization noted in a press release yesterday. “More information on that challenge can be found here.”)
The Monday ruling “represents a victory for patients, who should not have to face the additional burden of increased COVID-19 exposure as a condition of receiving their prescribed mifepristone,” said ACOG President Eva Chalas in a statement. “It also represents a victory for the dedicated clinicians who are working to provide needed care without unnecessary exposure of patients, their families and the members of the healthcare team, to the novel coronavirus.”
You can read the full decision here.
“The states of Indiana, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma had asked to intervene in the lawsuit,” arguing “that the case could impact how they enforce their own state laws that relate to or reference the FDA’s regulation of mifepristone,” notes the Associated Press. But “Chuang rejected their request last month. The judge said the federal case would not eliminate any state’s ability to continue to regulate abortion medication ‘above and beyond’ the FDA’s requirements.”
In other abortion-related rulings released yesterday, a federal court has declared Georgia’s “heartbeat law” unconstitutional. The law, passed last year, banned abortion at the point that any fetal cardiac activity could be detected, which occurs just a few weeks into pregnancy.
The Atlas of Surveillance is alive! After 18 months and hundreds of student and volunteer researchers, @EFF and @RSJNevada have released a map and database of more than 5,300 surveillance technologies in use across the United States. https://t.co/e283eW5guZ
— Dave Maass ???? (@maassive) July 13, 2020
Here’s the good news: You can shut down businesses or keep them open. Close schools or stay in session. Wear masks or not. The virus will make its way through in either case, and if we protect the elderly then deaths will be spared. pic.twitter.com/AVg0Vu8aH2
— Yinon Weiss (@yinonw) July 13, 2020
Read the rest of the thread here.
• California is headed back toward lockdown. “Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the closure Monday of all indoor operations at restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, malls, and other locations in 30 counties statewide,” reports CBSN Los Angeles.
• A judge sent a 15-year-old girl in Michigan to jail for not finishing her homework.
• A new television series based on the classic dystopian novel Brave New World debuts Wednesday.
• John Morgan, a top fundraiser for Joe Biden, told The Daily Beast that Sen. Kamala Harris’ “treacherous” attacks on Biden during Democratic presidential debates last summer disqualified her from becoming Biden’s running mate. “She didn’t stab him in the back—she stabbed him in the heart,” Morgan said.
• “The resumption of routine visa services will occur on a post-by-post basis” at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News yesterday.
• “The pro-choice movement in America is almost inextricable from Planned Parenthood”—and that’s a problem, writes Jessa Crispin at The Guardian.
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