The Corner

Politics & Policy

Democratic Attorneys General Urge the FDA to Loosen Chemical-Abortion Safety Guidelines

A pregnant woman receives an ultrasound. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Democratic attorneys general from 21 states have sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration, calling on federal officials to relax the guidelines for prescribing chemical-abortion drugs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We write to request that you increase access to reproductive healthcare, including safe
and legal abortion, during this pandemic,” the letter begins. It urges the FDA to waive its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for chemical abortion “to allow certified prescribers to use telehealth for Mifepristone, the medication abortion prescription drug.”

Currently, REMS for mifepristone requires that pregnant women are handed the drug directly at a clinic, office, or hospital, under the supervision of a health-care professional. There is no requirement that women remain at a health center when ingesting the drug.

“The current FDA REMS create unnecessary barriers between women and abortion care, not only making it harder to find . . . but also making it unappealing to prescribe,” the letter says. “By barring the use of telehealth, the REMS force women to travel at a time when many States and the federal government are urging people to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19.”

The letter concludes by insisting that the FDA’s “Elements to Assure Safe Use” of the drug are unnecessary restrictions, claiming with no citation that chemical-abortion drugs are “fourteen times safer than carrying a pregnancy to term.”

In reality, ingesting mifepristone puts pregnant women at risk of serious side effects and complications, many of which require follow-up care, which would be particularly difficult to obtain given the current epidemic affecting the health-care system. Somewhere between 5 percent and 7 percent of women who obtain a chemical abortion will require a follow-up surgical abortion. According to one survey, more than 3 percent of women who underwent a medical abortion in the first trimester required emergency-room admission to manage complications.

The full letter can be found here.

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