In its first abortion ruling since Amy Coney Barrett was rushed onto the Supreme Court before the November election, six justices took an unsurprising stance in a ruling Tuesday, proving that reproductive rights will be taking hits as long as the conservative majority dominates the court, which could be a very long time. With the court’s three liberals in opposition, the majority overturned a lower court decision in the case of FDA v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can reinstate its requirement making abortion by pill more difficult than medically necessary by requiring women to obtain the first of the two-pill regime in person from the provider instead of by mail. Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent.
Although the FDA regulation has been in effect for two decades, women’s health groups, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) brought a lawsuit in May to force its suspension because of risks from traveling and personal contact posed by the coronavirus pandemic. A U.S. District Court judge’s ruling in their favor is what the Supreme Court overturned.
The FDA regulates some 20,000 drugs, but the abortion pill is the only one it requires to be picked up in person, according to the ACLU. Both the ACOG and the American Medical Association consider mifepristone, the first of the two pills, safe for the woman to administer at home. It causes tissue in the uterus to break down and separate from the uterus. This is followed one or two days later with the equally safe misoprostol, which makes the uterus contract and expel its contents. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights advocate organization, in 2017 about 39% of U.S. abortions were by pill.
“Patients who have been previously evaluated and counseled by a clinician at a prior in-person visit or telemedicine appointment are forced to travel to a health center during the pandemic just to be handed a pill and sign a form. And these patients, their doctors, and other essential workers are all needlessly exposed to greater risk of contracting COVID-19 for this ministerial function.”
“Accordingly, while the progress on vaccines and medical treatments for COVID-19 are cause for optimism and may advance the day that the Preliminary Injunction will no longer be warranted, the impact of these advances to date has not meaningfully altered the current health risks and obstacles to women seeking medication abortions. The Court therefore finds that these factors do not materially alter the likelihood of success on the merits or warrant a stay or dissolution of the injunction at the present time.”
The COVID–19 pandemic has thus made many typical activities more difficult and dangerous. A trip to the doctor’s office is no exception. As a result, the Federal Government has urged healthcare providers and patients to take advantage of telemedicine. For example, the CDC has advised medical providers to use telemedicine “whenever possible” because it is“ the best way to protect patients and staff from COVID–19.”4 The CDC has likewise informed patients that they should use telemedicine “[t]o reduce the risk of COVID–19 and keep you and your family healthy.” As mentioned above, the FDA and HHS have waived many in-person drug distribution requirements because they could “put patients and others at risk for transmission of the coronavirus.” For instance, the FDA no longer requires patients to undergo in-person procedures, such as laboratory tests or MRIs, before being prescribed certain drugs. Similarly, HHS now permits physicians to use telemedicine, rather than in-person evaluations, before prescribing certain controlled substances, including opioids. The Government has thus recognized that in-person healthcare during the COVID–19 pandemic poses a significant risk to patients’ health, and it has acted to help patients “‘access healthcare they need from their home, without worrying about putting themselves or others at risk during the COVID–19 outbreak.’” Yet the Government has refused to extend that same grace to women seeking medication abortion. […]
What rejoinder does the Government have to the possibility that refusing to suspend the FDA’s in-person requirements for mifepristone during the COVID–19 pandemic will cause some women to miss the 10-week window [in which medication abortion is legal] altogether? No cause for concern, the Government assures this Court, because even if the FDA’s in-person requirements cause women to lose the opportunity for a medication abortion, they can still seek out a surgical abortion. What a callous response.
From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.