Abortion Pill Gets Fresh Look As FDA Launches Review Of Restrictions

A Newsy investigation in 2020 found the FDA’s own data show the pill to be safer than Viagra and complications from medication abortions are rare.
Posted at 5:34 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 17:34:36-04

For more than 20 years, the abortion pill, mifepristone, has been one of the most restricted drugs on the market. It’s harder to get then opioids like fentanyl. But now the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether any of those restrictions are necessary.

The restrictions have barred women from accessing the abortion pill at pharmacies. Instead, the pill is only available through certified medical professionals. And many patients have to drive hundreds of miles just to pick-up the pill.  

The FDA has always justified the restrictions with concerns about the safety of the pill. But a Newsy investigation in 2020 found the FDA’s own data show the pill to be safer than penicillin and Viagra and that complications from medication abortions are rare. 

"There has been a tidal wave of momentum on this issue led by the scientific community, calling for a fresh look at these outdated restrictions that are blocking access to a safe and effective medication," said Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued the FDA in 2017 to remove the restrictions on the abortion pill. The lawsuit was on behalf of Dr. Graham Chelius, a family physician on the small Hawaiian island of Kauai. 

"There are many, many people across this country who need access to this medication, both for early abortion care and for early miscarriage care," said Kaye. 

The FDA has been signaling the review was imminent. Last month they lifted some of the restrictions during the emergency health order for the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patients to get the abortion pill by mail. 

The FDA declined to comment on its decision. The ACLU’s case is scheduled to continue in December once the FDA has completed its review.