As daily death toll reaches record highs, more patients will have to make unnecessary health center trips to access safe, legal medication abortion
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Supreme Court — which now includes three Trump-appointed justices — granted the Trump administration’s request to reinstate a medically unnecessary barrier to medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) restrictions on mifepristone mandate that patients pick up the medication directly from a doctor’s office, hospital, or health center, rather than from a pharmacy or by mail, as allowed for other equally safe medications. During the pandemic, this unnecessary travel can expose patients to needless COVID-19 risks related to transportation, child care, multiple health center trips, and more.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
Today’s order from the Supreme Court is a threat to public safety and an egregious step backwards for health equity. Forcing patients to travel unnecessarily to a health center and risk COVID-19 exposure in order to access safe medication abortion is dangerous and serves only to create more barriers to care, especially for people of color and people with low incomes. The patients who will be most harmed by this medically unnecessary requirement are the most vulnerable: those already suffering from higher rates of illness, death, and economic hardship due to COVID-19. This decision — against medical consensus — puts their health and lives at further risk.
“Planned Parenthood Federation of America remains committed to doing whatever we can to ensure all patients can access the essential health care they need as safely as possible. We are calling on the incoming Biden-Harris administration to issue an executive order immediately upon taking office that ensures the suspension of this medically unnecessary restriction on medication abortion during this pandemic. We will always work to protect people’s access to reproductive health care, especially as this devastating public health crisis rages on.
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote:
Due to particularly severe health risks, vastly limited clinic options, and the 10-week window for obtaining a medication abortion, the FDA’s requirement that women obtain mifepristone in person during the COVID-19 pandemic places an unnecessary and undue burden on their right to abortion. Pregnancy itself puts a woman at increased risk for severe consequences from COVID-19. In addition, more than half of women who have abortions are women of color, and COVID-19’s mortality rate is three times higher for Black and Hispanic individuals than non-Hispanic White individuals.
By reinstating this unnecessary barrier to critical health care during a global pandemic, this order risks the health of people seeking medication abortion. This harm will be felt most acutely by Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other communities of color who already face disproportionate economic and health outcomes, as well as illness and death, due to COVID-19.
Mifepristone is safe, effective, and has been used by more than 4 million people since the FDA approved it 20 years ago. Leading medical associations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and American Academy of Family Physicians, have maintained that the FDA’s long-standing restrictions on mifepristone are not based on evidence and do not benefit patients. In fact, out of 20,000 prescription medications regulated by the FDA, mifepristone is the only home-use medication required to be dispensed in person.
Planned Parenthood is proud to offer medication abortion via telehealth in 20 states. As a 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.