Abortion pills can now be offered at retail pharmacies in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday, a major change in policy that could dramatically increase Americans’ access to medication abortion.

The FDA announced new rules for abortion pills after a year of negotiations with the two companies that make the pills. Previously, patients could obtain the drug only from certain mail-order pharmacies or from doctors and clinics that went through a certification process. Now, patients will still need to obtain a prescription from a certified health care provider, but any pharmacy that accepts a prescription can fill it as long as they meet confidentiality and other criteria. . New York Times report,

Some states still outlaw abortion, and 18 others require the presence of a physician to prescribe the pills, which limits the use of telemedicine. But the change will expand access for millions of people who can pick up pills at neighborhood or retail pharmacies like other prescriptions.

Medication abortion uses mifepristone and misoprostol, two different drugs — in combination or alone — that induce abortion. The diet was approved by the FDA in 2000 for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy and already accounts for nearly half of all abortions in America

Experts expect that the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Roe v. Medical abortion would be used more frequently by women and people giving birth after Wade was overturned, prompting more than half of the states to ban or severely limit abortion.

“By allowing brick-and-mortar pharmacies to provide medication abortion care, the FDA is treating medication abortion like safe, effective, time-sensitive care,” said Kristen Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project. a statement. “Today’s announcement means that people who live in states that have not banned medication abortion care may soon be able to walk into their neighborhood pharmacy and walk out with their medications in hand.”

Patients in states where abortion is banned can still try to access pills through online consultations and doctors abroad. Aid Access, an Austria-based telemedicine service, uses doctors in Europe to ship abortion pills to people in the US who face little legal risk for doing so. Requests for medication abortions have skyrocketed in recent months, even after the Supreme Court ruling.

While states have threatened to target Americans who seek abortion services across state lines, President Joe Biden has vowed to protect and expand medication abortions and protect patient privacy.

The FDA said in December that it would eliminate the need that patients receive mifepristone in person from health providers, a major extension of telemedicine that allowed people to receive pills by mail. That individual rule was officially removed from the FDA regulations on Tuesday.

The Times said the FDA’s change does not guarantee that major pharmacies will begin filling drug abortion prescriptions immediately. For some, the administrative and logistical challenges may be too overwhelming. Some chains may also be concerned about the optics of filling prescriptions amid the ongoing political storm over abortion.

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