Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are urging the Food and Drug Administration to “immediately eliminate” rules requiring people to obtain abortion drugs in-person amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock obtained by Politico, Democratic women on the committee called on the agency to “immediately eliminate the medically unnecessary in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone” — one of two drugs used in chemical abortions, the most common method of abortion in the first ten weeks of pregnancy.
The letter points out that the agency suspended in-person requirements for a number of other drugs during the pandemic, including opioids.
“Imposing this requirement in the midst of a deadly pandemic—one that has disproportionately impacted communities of color across the United States—needlessly places patients and providers in harm’s way, and further entrenches longstanding health inequities,” the group wrote.
The in-person requirement was initially suspended by a federal judge in July in response to a lawsuit by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
However, the Trump administration appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Though the high court first declined to intervene in October, it voted 6-3 in January to reinstitute the restrictions.
President Biden’s eventual nominee to head the FDA will likely face pressure from Democratic-aligned groups to end restrictions on abortion chemicals: Some abortion-rights groups have called on the agency to permanently lift the restrictions.
Biden has already taken a number of pro-abortion moves since taking office, including reversing the Trump administration’s ban on providing U.S. foreign aid to organizations that offer or refer patients for abortions and ordering a review of the Trump-era ban on federal family planning funds going to domestic abortion providers.
Pro-abortion activists have called on the new administration to go further, calling for an end to rules requiring insurance companies to bill separately for abortion coverage and to end the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funding for abortion.