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FDA to permanently allow abortion pills by mail

The ACLU celebrated the decision, but said it did not go far enough.

Published: December 16, 2021 6:38pm

Updated: December 16, 2021 6:54pm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new rule on Thursday allowing women seeking an abortion to get a pill by mail, no longer requiring them to visit a medical facility to receive the early-pregnancy abortifacient. 

The in-person pick-up requirement was initially lifted by the FDA during the pandemic. This most recent decision makes the change permanent. 

Prescribers will still need certification and training, while pharmacies that dispense the pill will still require certification, according to The Associated Press. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) celebrated the decision, which comes in response to a 2017 case filed by the legal group. The ACLU says the FDA's ruling comes "at a crisis moment for reproductive freedom." 

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that abortion clinics in Texas can challenge the state's abortion law, but the court cannot stop the law's enforcement. The Texas law allows private citizens to sue those who provide or assist an abortion after about six weeks of gestation.  

"The court seems poised to soon overrule or dramatically undermine Roe v. Wade," the ACLU wrote, referring to a pending Supreme Court case over a Mississippi law banning most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

"​​Unfortunately, the FDA failed to listen," the ACLU also argued, saying that the new regulation did not go far enough. The group wants to expand the number of medical professionals who can prescribe the drug by axing the special certification. Before being prescribed the abortifacient mifepristone, women are still required to sign a "Patient Agreement Form," a measure that the ACLU wants removed. Mifepristone is prescribed with the hormone-blocker misoprostol to create an abortion pill, which ends pregnancies after about 10 weeks gestation.

The FDA's new ruling will be felt differently across the United States. More than a dozen Republican states have laws limiting access to abortion pills and some have outlawed delivery by mail, per the Associated Press. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said earlier this month, "I will do everything I can to protect the lives of those children," including enforcing a state law banning most abortions.

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