The Freedom From Religion Foundation is applauding the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to allow abortion medication to be received by mail.
This reverses a previous policy that required abortion pills to be obtained in person. And it comes at a crucial time: when the ultraconservative Supreme Court appears slated to reverse abortion rights. FFRF has long called for the FDA to “free the abortion pill,” explaining that abortion pill restrictions are not backed by science and exacerbate existing inequalities for marginalized people.
The FDA first approved medication abortion in 2000 as a safe and effective way to terminate a pregnancy. Indeed, studies have shown that this is 99.6 percent effective and has less than 1 percent risk of major complications. When available via mail, it has the potential to democratize abortion care by eliminating costs associated with transportation, child care and work arrangements.
However, the abortion pill has been tangled in a web of religiously rooted bureaucracy since the administration of George W. Bush, an anti-abortion hero to the Religious Right, placed abortion medication on the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) program, which is for drugs known to be “associated with potential serious complications or contraindications, such as antipsychotics, opioids, testosterone, and drugs used to treat cancer, acne and multiple sclerosis.”
Health care and medical organizations have called for abortion medication to be removed from this risk evaluation program, explaining that this requirement is “inconsistent with requirements for other drugs with similar or greater risks, especially in light of the significant benefit that mifepristone provides to patients.”
The FDA’s latest move allows a way for abortion pills to be received by mail even in the 19 states that prohibit telemedicine. People seeking an abortion in these states could potentially receive telehealth abortion services from more liberal states, such as New York and California, and have the pills shipped to their home.
While this is indeed cause for celebration, the FDA will still require patients to sign an additional form for a medication abortion, as well as require clinicians to pre-register with a drug manufacturer before they can prescribe it. Reproductive rights advocates have asked for both of these stipulations to be lifted.
“The FDA needs to be commended for advancing women’s rights,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “However, the danger is that a subsequent administration could reverse this.”
That’s why we still must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. The Freedom From Religion Foundation submitted formal testimony in support of this act, and thanks to the work of many activist citizens, including FFRF members, it passed the House.
It is now in the Senate — where it faces a lot of resistance. It’s vital that we ensure that our secular voices are heard. Call your senators to tell them to work to pass this important piece of abortion legislation so that abortion rights can be restored.
Reproductive rights need to be enshrined into law and not depend on executive vagaries.