FDA Rolls Back Abortion Telemedicine Restrictions

Abortions via telemedicine will be enabled for over half of the U.S. following the FDA's modification of its restrictions on mifepristone, a medication used in combination with misoprostol to induce termination of pregnancy. Mifepristone, which is approved by the FDA through 10 weeks of gestation, has following its initial approval been limited to on-site dispensation, meaning a clinic, hospital, or medical office visit was required. The emergence of COVID-19 caused the FDA to walk back this enforcement after lengthy deliberation in the courts.

This new modification allows abortion providers in multiple states to send medication out through a mail-order pharmacy. That level of convenience is a major win for those in areas with notable access gaps; sparse in-person clinics and pesky multi-appointment waiting period conditions have kept options limited for those in need of abortion assistance.

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Some experts have pointed out that the FDA's guidance retained specific certification components for pharmacies and providers in addition to patient agreements that staff had recommended omitting. Also, despite the immediate positive outlook, abortion via telemedicine remains illegal in 19 states, and 32 states maintain a requirement that only physicians are allowed to administer abortion medication. Broader telemedicine regulations, which were impermanently relaxed amid the pandemic, could kick back in and throw an extra wrench into things.