Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill

Feb 9, 2021
In The News

A group of House Democrats pressed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Tuesday to lift “medically unnecessary” restriction on the abortion pill that have been in place for several years.

Under the FDA rule, mifepristone, which is used to end early pregnancies and treat early pregnancy loss, can only be dispensed in person, a requirement that has received renewed criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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,” Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee wrote in a letter to acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Katie Porter (Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Jackie Speier (Calif.), Robin Kelly (Ill.) and Brenda Lawrence (Mich.), as well as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) signed on to the letter.

Health organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) have long argued that the in-person dispensing requirements impede access to abortion and are medically unnecessary because the drug is safe.

In response to the pandemic, the FDA last year suspended in-person dispensing requirements for other drugs but not for mifepristone, prompting a lawsuit from ACOG.

While lower courts sided with ACOG and temporarily ordered the FDA to pause enforcement of the rule while the lawsuit proceeded, the Supreme Court eventually sided with the Trump administration, which argued the requirements were still necessary.

Courts have not yet ruled on the merits of the case, which is being heard by the 4 th Circuit Court of Appeals.

But it’s not yet clear how the Department of Justice will respond to the lawsuit now that the Biden administration has taken over.

The FDA could also agree to suspend the in-person requirements, which would make the case moot, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing ACOG in the lawsuit.

Biden has not yet named a nominee to lead the FDA.

“The Biden-Harris Administration has vowed to follow the science, and the evidence is crystal clear that this in-person pick-up requirement is senseless and dangerous. It’s time to act,” Julia Kaye, staff attorney at the ACLU Reproductive Freedom project and lead counsel on the case, said in a statement.