The US Food and Drug Administration said that it would allow mailing the drug used to abort early pregnancies, permanently lifting the long-standing restrictions that had been suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The drug, known under the generic name mifepristone is part of a two-drug cocktail used to end pregnancies that are less than 10 weeks along.
It was originally approved in 2000, but had to be obtained in person at a clinic, medical office or hospital.
The FDA suspended the enforcement of that restriction in April this year; after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued claiming the practice created risk of “unnecessary exposure” to the coronavirus. Thursday’s decision makes the suspension permanent.
“The FDA’s decision will come as a tremendous relief for countless abortion and miscarriage patients,” said Georgeanne Usova, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU.
Patients can now opt to receive it by mail from a pharmacy or a certified prescriber; which the ACLU condemned as “disappointing” and “medically unnecessary,” urging these restrictions to be lifted as well.
Thursday’s policy change will presumably increase access to the drug by women in rural and remote areas; or those lacking time or transportation to visit a doctor or a clinic.
It will have no effect on residents of 19 US states that have explicitly outlawed the mailing of abortion pills.
The US Supreme Court is currently hearing a challenge to the Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks.
Democrats fear that the ruling – due by the end of June 2022 – may overturn the 1973 precedent in Roe v. Wade, which defined abortion as part of a constitutionally protected right to privacy.