You may soon be able to get abortion pills at your local pharmacy
This is a big first for the U.S.
As states with Republican-led anti-choice legislatures continue to chip away at what little reproductive freedoms remain after the Supreme Court’s devastating 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democratic lawmakers and leaders are working to expand access in new ways. For the first time ever in the United States, brick-and-mortar pharmacies will now be allowed to offer abortion pills (also known as medication abortion) thanks to a regulatory change made by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Finalized Jan. 3, the FDA’s decision to expand access to abortion pills will have a major effect in states where abortion is still legal: Before, patients could only receive mifepristone, the first of the two-drug combination needed for a medication abortion (the second is misoprostol) through heavily regulated channels, such as clinics, hospitals, and mail-order pharmacies. Now, patients with prescriptions from a certified health care provider can obtain abortion pills through almost any participating retail pharmacy in their state, either by walking in or ordering through the mail.
“Today’s FDA announcement expands access to medications that are essential for reproductive autonomy and is a step in the right direction that is especially needed to increase access to abortion care,” GenBioPro CEO Evan Masingill, whose pharmaceutical company makes the generic version of mifepristone, said in a statement, per The New York Times. In order to become certified, pharmacies must agree to abide by certain FDA-instilled standards to dispense the medications needed for a self-managed abortion. The standards, per the Times, cover issues like protecting the identities of health care providers, and whether or not to dispense the medications through in-person means.
Both CVS and Walgreens have confirmed via statements that they’re reviewing the new requirements, according to CNN.
“For some people, this is going to be a huge improvement on their ability to access the drug and be able to even consider this as a choice for themselves,” an official from Danco Laboratories, the pharmaceutical company that produces Mifepristone (under the brand name Mifeprex), told The Times. The official predicted that small retail pharmacies may be the first to actually start dispensing the abortion pills, as abiding by some of the new standards could be more tedious for the large chains.
The FDA’s announcement comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s crushing decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, after which millions of people across the country saw their reproductive freedoms evaporate almost overnight. As of Jan. 4, most abortions are banned in at least 13 states, and anti-choice lawmakers are continually filing legislation designed to squelch access. Demand for medication abortion has been rising for years; it now accounts for more than 50% of all U.S. abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s 2020 Abortion Provider Census — and it’s expected to continue climbing as Republican lawmakers chip away at reproductive freedoms.
While the decision to participate in dispensing abortion pills lies with the pharmacies themselves, they can still only do so in states where abortion remains legal. But the on-demand availability of the pills in states where abortion is still legal will undoubtedly help more pregnant-capable people access the care they need from across state lines.
“With abortion access being more restricted now than ever before, it is all the more important that we continue expanding access to care,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Mini Timmarajtu said in a Jan. 3 statement. “We applaud the FDA for following the science and taking this much welcome step to permanently lift the in-person dispensing requirement for medication abortion care and expand access through pharmacies.”