Abortion pills by mail: Is FDA right removing in-person restrictions?

Jeff Roberson / AP

Fact Box

  • On December 16, 2021, the FDA announced abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol, would be available by mail and prescription through telehealth medical consultations. Previously, the FDA had required in-person visits for the pills after medical abortion was approved in 2000. 
  • According to Statista, there were 630,000 legal abortions in 2019 with most reports from 20 to 24 year olds. 
  • Healthline reports a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as 5 ½ to 6 weeks of pregnancy by internal ultrasound. By 6 ½ or 7 weeks, a heartbeat is more assured. 
  • World Population Review records that 43 states prohibit abortion after a specific point in a woman’s pregnancy; 21 states prohibit partial-birth abortion; 12 states restrict private insurance plans from covering abortions.
  • The Guttmacher Institute reports that 45 states allow “individual health care providers to refuse to participate in an abortion.”

Jani (No)

The FDA recently repealed the in-person requirement necessary for patients to obtain mifepristone, one of the two drugs needed for a medically induced abortion. While Planned Parenthood calls this a win for women's rights, it is instead a reckless policy that is little more than a big pharma payoff at the expense of the unsuspecting public.  

Chemically induced abortions have gained popularity recently, especially among women looking to avoid invasive medical procedures. However, the medication required for self-managed abortions are dangerous and present many risks. Eliminating the in-person prescribing requirement reduces a doctor's ability to properly assess and instruct patients on safely using the medication and when to seek emergency medical treatment. 

Common side effects of ingesting mifepristone include heavy bleeding, fever, chills, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause dangerous uterine bleeding, uterine rupture, or incomplete miscarriage. Self-managed medical abortions are serious procedures with multiple associated risks that require a medical professional's extensive knowledge to navigate safely. 

The in-person prescribing requirement has historically been used as a protective barrier to help regulate dangerous medications. The FDA already reports at least 26 deaths and multiple cases of sepsis directly related to taking the medicines necessary to terminate a pregnancy at home. Eliminating the in-person prescribing requirement will likely spawn a sharp increase in those numbers.

Many practitioners feel that medical abortions are much harder on a woman's body than surgical abortions. A lack of extensive medical study and market history make removing the in-person prescribing requirement a reckless move that unnecessarily puts many women at risk.

Morgan (Yes)

Because birth control, Viagra, and other important medications are delivered by mail, it makes sense that abortion pills would also be delivered in this way. According to the Washington Post, some medicines that are currently considered safe and reasonable to mail actually put patients at more significant risk of negative side effects than abortion pills do. So, if these can be conveniently delivered to one's mailbox, abortion pills, which are also healthcare, should certainly be. 

At present, reducing in-person contact at pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals is necessary. With the threat of COVID-19 exposure still very high and new variants such as Omicron keeping the danger of contracting the virus alive, it's essential to avoid in-person contact whenever possible. Mailing abortion pills will limit the threat of COVID exposure, which is why the in-person requirement was lifted in the first place. 

Aside from safety precautions during a pandemic, abortions are an incredibly controversial topic. There's something to be said for the privacy that comes with mailing abortion pills that makes the process more discreet and can encourage those who may be afraid of retaliation or shame to still do what is best for their body and health. 

Additionally, allowing the pills to be delivered by mail will increase access for many different types of groups: women who live in more rural areas, couples who simply don't want children, and finally, low-income families who don't have the financial means to care for babies and who make up three-quarters of abortion patients. 

Increased access to healthcare is an important facet of any prosperous society.

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