The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit that seeks to expand access to medication abortions.
The Food and Drug Administration’s regulations dictate that the abortion pill Mifeprex can only be dispensed at medical facilities that are under a certified provider, NPR reports. In addition, the providers must be pre-registered with the drug manufacturer, must have the medicine in stock, and must be able to provide a surgical abortion if any complications caused by the pills arise.
The ACLU, along with other pro-choice advocates, are pushing for the medicine to be available at pharmacies to make it easier for patients. Abortion pills can be used during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Dr. Graham Chelius, who has a practice in Waimea, Hawaii, says he has to tell his patients to go to a different island if they want an abortion. “There are no abortion providers on our island, so if one of my patients wants to end her pregnancy, she has to fly to a different island 150 miles away to get this care,” he says.
Chelius is a plaintiff in this lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Hawaii. He argues that the FDA restrictions are pointless and burdensome. Hawaii already has one of the country’s highest poverty rates, and these regulations throw up expensive roadblocks for patients. “The FDA restrictions create delays that often push medication abortion out of reach of my patients,” he says.
And some of my patients are simply unable to make this trip and instead have been forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will.
Julia Kaye, a staff attorney with ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, states that it’s high time the FDA lets women fill prescriptions at pharmacies. She argues that the abortion pill is considered safe by most medical experts, and many women prefer to use it, compared to other procedures.
Kaye says, “It feels more natural to them, like a miscarriage. It allows them to pass the pregnancy in the privacy and comfort of their homes surrounded by their loved ones. It allows a woman to end her pregnancy on her own terms.”
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has, for its part, declared abortion pills a “safe, effective option,” and has urged the FDA to update its regulations on the matter.