A federal judge agreed to suspend a rule that requires women during the COVID-19 pandemic to visit a hospital, clinic or medical office to obtain an abortion pill.
U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland concluded that the “in-person requirements” for patients seeking medication abortion care impose a “substantial obstacle” to abortion patients and are likely unconstitutional under the circumstances of the pandemic.
“Today’s ruling represents a victory for patients, who should not have to face the additional burden of increased COVID-19 exposure as a condition of receiving their prescribed mifepristone,” said Eva Chalas, MD, FACOG, FACS, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “It also represents a victory for the dedicated clinicians who are working to provide needed care without unnecessary exposure of patients, their families and the members of the healthcare team, to the novel coronavirus.”
“ACOG undertook this legal challenge because we believe strongly in our position, which is founded on clear science and the consensus of the medical community. Mifepristone is a safe medication and FDA’s in-person dispensing requirements provide no medical benefit to patients. There is no basis for FDA’s decision to treat mifepristone differently than other medications,” said Chalas. “During the COVID-19 pandemic – which is likely to impact the U.S. for many months to come – requiring in-person dispensing of mifepristone needlessly threatens both patients and clinicians, and we are relieved to see that our members and their patients will no longer face this additional burden when it comes to abortion care.”
“Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm,” the judge wrote in his 80-page decision.
Chuang’s ruling will allow healthcare providers to arrange for mifepristone to be mailed or delivered to patients during the public health emergency declared by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone to be used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, to end an early pregnancy or manage a miscarriage.
“By causing certain patients to decide between forgoing or substantially delaying abortion care, or risking exposure to COVID-19 for themselves, their children, and family members, the In-Person Requirements present a serious burden to many abortion patients,” Chuang wrote.
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