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opinion | What if you had abortion pills in your medicine cabinet?

Access to mifepristone, one of the drugs taken for abortion, has been as politically fraught as the drug was. Approved more than 20 years ago. Mifepristone is regulated under the Risk Assessment and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS – a designation usually reserved for drugs that pose a high risk to patient safety. As such, it can only be distributed to clinics, medical offices, and hospitals; only by or under the supervision of a specially certified doctor or other medical provider; And only for patients who have signed an FDA-approved patient agreement.

For years, reproductive health experts have Urged that the access requirements for mifepristone be removed permanently, arguing that there are no significant safety reasons for the patient to personally take the pills from the doctor’s office when she is likely to take them, and experience a miscarriage after coming home. This rule places a particularly heavy burden on low-income women, who may struggle to get to an abortion clinic, and in areas that have limited access to abortion providers.

in April, the FDA said That for the duration of the pandemic, it would cease to enforce the requirement that mifepristone be given in a medical clinic. This paved the way for telemedicine start-ups like hey jane in New York, California and Washington; like in California and Illinois; just bullet in Minnesota and Montana; And abortion on demand To mail abortion drugs to patients after consultation via telemedicine in several other states.

still in 19 states While administering mifepristone requires a physician to be physically present with the patient, assisted access is still the only option for physician-supervised drug abortion by mail. Dr. Gomperts consults with patients online from his office in Austria, writes up a prescription and gives instructions on how to request pills from a pharmacy in India – a process that usually takes up to three weeks. The cost comes to $110 including shipping. Patients who cannot afford that amount are asked to pay what they can.

While importing drugs from overseas is illegal in most cases, the FDA not usually Tracking down people who buy medicines online for their personal use. and though some states —South Carolina, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Nevada—explicitly criminalize self-managed abortion, Texas does not prohibit termination of one’s own pregnancy, and SB 8 exempts abortion patients from prosecution in the state Is. (People seeking legal advice on these matters in any state can consult hotline is run by the group if/when/how.)

Yet the drug afforded by Aid Access may be even more important than the access to abortion that Dr. Gomperts’ move prompts health care providers in the US. Indeed, some reproductive rights experts argue that not only can American health care providers follow her lead and prescribe abortion pills in advance – they have a responsibility to do so. Doing so would be just one way to help care for patients, but it could be important.

“What I’m telling physicians is, if you believe that people should be able to have an abortion when they want one and that early abortion can be safely self-managed with pills, then understand that doing so. It’s in your hands, said advocacy group co-founder Francine Coietoux plan c, who has worked to raise awareness About the safety of self-managed abortion and educating the public about how to get abortion pills online. “I think many of them are now realizing that they can do it – it’s legal and within the scope of their practice.”

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