Abortion pills are a critical part of reproductive care nationwide. Of all US abortions, more than half are now with pills rather than with a procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. But medication abortion has drawn increasing attention since the supreme court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade last June.
The FDA has limited dispensing of mifepristone to a subset of specialty offices and clinics due to safety concerns for more than 20 years. The agency has repeatedly eased restrictions and expanded access, increasing demand even as state laws make the pills harder to get for many women.
But the announcement from Walgreens suggests that mifepristone access may not expand as broadly as federal regulators intended in January. Typically, the FDA’s authority to regulate prescription drug access has gone unchallenged. But more than a dozen states now have laws restricting abortion broadly – and the pills specifically – following last year’s supreme court decision overturning the federal right to abortion.
Attorneys general from conservative states have also argued that shipments of mifepristone violate a 19th century law that prohibited sending items used in abortion through the mail.
An anti-abortion group filed a federal lawsuit in Texas in November seeking to revoke mifepristone’s approval, claiming the FDA approved the drug 23 years ago without adequate evidence of safety.