A coalition of leading medical experts and reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates agree patients should not be forced to risk COVID-19 exposure to access abortion or miscarriage care
New York, NY — Tomorrow (June 19), a federal court in Maryland will hear arguments in a lawsuit asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to temporarily ease restrictions on on the medication mifepristone, in order to ensure patients can safely access abortion and miscarriage care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and other leading medical organizations and reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates.
Mifepristone is one of two medications used in a medication abortion and managing an early miscarriage. Research has shown that mifepristone is safe and effective when prescribed through telehealth and self-administered at home; however, the FDA’s Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) restrictions unnecessarily require patients to get mifepristone directly from a doctor’s office, hospital, or other health center — rather than from a pharmacy or mail-order as they would for other equally safe medications.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“During a public health crisis, we should be doing everything we can to make sexual and reproductive health care more accessible, not less — especially for Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color who have long faced systemic racism and are now being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. While Planned Parenthood and other providers have worked to ensure patients can still access essential, time-sensitive care during the pandemic — while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure for both patients and health center staff — the FDA’s restrictions on mifepristone undermine these efforts for patients seeking abortion and miscarriage care.
“At odds with expert medical consensus, these restrictions are just another example of how reproductive health care, especially abortion, is treated differently than other kinds of health care in ways that only put patients’ health and lives at risk. It is critical that the FDA ease the restrictions around mifepristone access during this pandemic so patients can get the care they need as safely as possible.”
Out of 20,000 prescription medications regulated by the FDA, mifepristone is the only one for home use currently required to be dispensed in person. Requiring patients to travel to pick up the medication significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 exposure for patients, providers, and health center staff.
In response to the pandemic, federal agencies have encouraged the use of telehealth and allowed providers to forgo unnecessary in-person visits in order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure, with the exception of mifepristone. Mifepristone is safe, effective, and has been used by more than four million people since the FDA approved it twenty years ago. Leading medical associations have maintained that the FDA’s REMS restrictions on the distribution of mifepristone are not based on evidence and do not benefit patients.
PPFA joined the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other leading health care organizations in signing on to an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit. The brief highlights how removing the in-person requirement on mifepristone during the COVID-19 pandemic would especially benefit patients with low-incomes and patients of color, who already face heightened barriers to care.
Planned Parenthood is proud to offer medication abortion via site-to-site telehealth in 18 states. As the nation’s leading sexual and reproductive health care provider, Planned Parenthood is committed to making sure all patients receive the high-quality health care they need, when they need it — including safe, legal abortion. By providing medication abortion safely and effectively via telehealth, we can keep patients, providers, and health center staff safer during the pandemic and expand access to abortion for people, no matter where they live.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.