Washington D.C. — Today, the National Women’s Health Network led a diverse coalition of 80 organizations in urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lift medically unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone, the first of two FDA-approved medications used in tandem to induce an abortion.
Throughout the United States, patients are turning to telehealth appointments and online pharmacies for routine medical care without having to leave their homes. But for most pregnant people seeking safe and effective FDA-approved abortion pills during the COVID-19 outbreak, the FDA requires them to pick up mifepristone in person from a registered clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital, sometimes traveling far from home — even though the FDA permits the pregnant person to wait until they get back home to swallow it. (Individual states may impose their own requirements but the abortion itself always occurs at home, regardless of where the pill is taken.)
The organizations write:
Solid research and nearly 20 years of clinical experience have demonstrated that these requirements are medically unnecessary.
These requirements have long harmed patients’ health by delaying or blocking access to medication abortion with no countervailing medical benefit. Now, in the midst of a public health emergency, these requirements are further endangering patients and straining the health system. Under [these restrictions] imposed by the FDA on mifepristone, both patients and clinic staff are forced to travel during a pandemic, don protective gear, and increase their exposure to potentially sick individuals — with no corresponding health benefit to justify these serious risks.
The United Kingdom Department of Health recently approved home use of mifepristone in response to the dangers posed by COVID-19, and clinics there have already begun mailing the pills to women following telehealth appointments. In the United States, the FDA has already issued guidance suspending the enforcement of similar restrictions on other drugs that are far less safe than mifepristone, explicitly noting that “patients may need to avoid public places” and that requiring patients to come into clinics “can put patients and others at risk for transmission of the coronavirus”—as noted in today’s letter.
“These restrictions have never made medical sense, but now they risk making a global pandemic worse. In the midst of strict state stay-at-home orders, the FDA is requiring women and providers to leave their homes and travel long distances just to hand off a pill that could be mailed to their doorsteps or available at local pharmacies,” says Cynthia A. Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network.
“Abortion pills are safe and effective, and it's long past time to make them easier to get,” agreed Erin Matson, Co-Founder/Co-Director of Reproaction.
Lisa Stone, Executive Director for Legal Voice warns, “Denying or delaying care places an immediate burden on patients, their families, our communities, and the health system, and can have profound and lasting consequences. As we struggle in the Northwest and across the country with a global health pandemic, pregnant people need timely access to treatment.”
Valerie Ploumpis, National Policy Director for Equality California agrees, “Here in the Golden State, the COVID-19 crisis has forced millions of Californians — including LGBTQ+ people — to shelter in place, many of whom may need to access critical abortion care, such as mifepristone. However, the FDA's current restriction on medication abortion will unnecessarily put the lives of pregnant people at risk. On behalf of our 900,000 members, we’re urging the FDA to immediately protect the health of pregnant people — and our healthcare professionals — by lifting unnecessary restrictions on abortion care.”
“Abortion care is essential health care and we need the FDA to lift restrictions on accessing these life-saving medicines!” says Aimee Thorne-Thomsen, Board of Directors Co-Chair and Acting Executive Director for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.
The co-signing organizations are part of a growing groundswell of public support for the change. Last week, 21 state attorneys general made a similar request, noting the dangers in requiring pregnant people to travel during stay-at-home orders. Around the country, tens of thousands of individuals have signed their name to multiple petitions calling for the FDA to lift restrictions on mifepristone during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Signatories include a range of national, regional, and local health advocacy, good government, and reproductive justice organizations including Public Citizen, Union of Concerned Scientists, National Abortion Federation, National Health Law Program, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Center for American Progress, Reproaction, Legal Voice, In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Equality California, among many others.
The letter may be found HERE.
500 Women Scientists
Abortion Care Network
Access Reproductive Care-Southeast
Advocates for Youth
American Humanist Association
American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
Black Women's Health Imperative
California Latinas for Reproductive Justice
Catholics for Choice
Center for American Progress
CHOICES. Memphis Center for Reproductive Health
Civil Liberties and Public Policy
Clearinghouse on Women's Issues
Consumers for Affordable Health Care
Creating a Clinician Corps
Feminist Majority Foundation
Feminist Women’s Health Center
Florida Access Network
Forward Together Action
Gender Justice League Seattle
GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality
Human Rights Watch
Ibis Reproductive Health
If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
International Campaign for Women's Safe Right to Abortion
International Women's Health Coalition
Jacobs Institute of Women's Health
Jane's Due Process
Medical Students for Choice
NARAL Pro-Choice America
NARAL Pro-Choice Texas
National Abortion Federation
National Advocates for Pregnant Women
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Council of Jewish Women
National Health Law Program
National Hispanic Medical Association
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice
National Minority Quality Forum
National Network of Abortion Funds
National Organization for Women
National Women’s Health Network
National Working Positive Coalition
New Era Colorado
Our Bodies Ourselves
Population Connection Action Fund
Power to Decide
Progress Florida Education Institute
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
Reproductive Health Access Project
SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change
SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective
Southwest Women's Law Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico
SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW!
Students for Choice
The Women’s Centers
Union of Concerned Scientists
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
Women First Digital
Women’s Health Specialists
Women Have Options/Ohio
Women’s Law Project, Pennsylvania
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