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FDA Medication Abortion Change – What it Means for South Carolina.
by Ashley Crary Lidow on Dec 21, 2021
Quick Background on Medication Abortion AKA the “abortion pill”:
“Abortion pill” is the common name for using two different medicines to end a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol.
First, you take a pill called mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing.
Then you take the second medicine, misoprostol, either right away or up to 48 hours later. This medicine causes cramping and bleeding to empty your uterus. It’s kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period, and the process is very similar to an early miscarriage.” Credit to Planned Parenthood for this information.
The Food and Drug Administration announced that it would modify its outdated and medically unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone, the first of two pills used in a medication abortion, lifting the requirement to obtain the drug in person.
Under previous guidelines, providers had to distribute the medication in person, while the second medication, misoprostol, is taken up to two days later outside of the clinic setting.
This opens up a pathway for medication abortions to be obtained via a telehealth visit and for the medication to be shipped to a patient’s home. Unfortunately, some states (including South Carolina) restrict these options, we will explain more below.
- For too long, the FDA’s restrictions on mifepristone have imposed needless barriers on access to abortion and miscarriage care and cause particular harm to communities already facing serious health care disparities — especially people of color, people struggling to make ends meet, and people living in rural areas.
- Medication abortion is safe, effective, and has been FDA-approved for over 20 years. Evidence shows that allowing patients to receive it by mail improves access without impacting the drug’s excellent safety record.
- Leading medical organizations — including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) — have long opposed the FDA’s restrictions on mifepristone because they have no basis in science or safety and only create barriers to time-sensitive care.
- This announcement comes at a crisis point for reproductive health and rights in the United States, with the Supreme Court seemingly poised to overturn Roe
What the change means for South Carolina:
There are 19 states, including South Carolina, that require the clinician providing a medication abortion to be physically present when the medication is administered, thereby prohibiting the use of telemedicine to prescribe medication for abortion.
That means that medication abortion cannot be provided via telemedicine in South Carolina, even with this change.
Learn more about these restrictions here.
What needs to happen next in South Carolina:
The South Carolina Legislature should repeal the telemedicine restriction and focus on medically accurate policies that improve communities.
Want to learn more? Here are a few resources:
A good overview of the change from the New York Times
A podcast episode in The Daily