Profs who support abortion pills by mail due to COVID still support it 10 months later

Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, several hundred professors and medical professionals asked the FDA to waive rules barring them from mailing abortion pill to mothers.

Ten months later, many indicated a desire for the mail restriction to be permanently removed.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, several hundred professors and doctors requested that the United States Food and Drug Administration waive regulations stopping them from sending abortion pills to mothers through the mail. Nearly ten months later, many of these same professors want the regulations permanently removed.

The professionals wrote to the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Director Janet Woodcock in April 2020, asking that the agency waive drug safety requirements for mifepristone — also known as RU-486, the key ingredient in an abortion pill.

“Primarily, we are concerned that any delay in accessing abortion care is unsafe for patients,” read the letter. It later went on to say that “during this unprecedented public health crisis, it is imperative that patients, especially those who are vulnerable or who live in rural areas, can use telehealth and mail-order pharmacy services to access needed healthcare without unnecessary restrictions, particularly for medications that do not pose a risk of abuse or overdose.”

Campus Reform asked 25 of the roughly 150 academics who signed the letter if they would currently support the waiving of the FDA’s safety requirements. Of the five professors who responded, all support a continued removal of the regulation.

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Jeremy Golding, a professor of family medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, told Campus Reform that “the FDA’s restrictions are purely political in origin and have little or nothing to do with good medical practice.”

Elizabeth Gromet, a resident affiliated with Yale School of Medicine, told Campus Reform that she is entirely in favor of the elimination of in-person dispensation requirement — “both in the context of this pandemic but also in general.”

“Abortion care should be accessible and safe, and requiring our patients to come into a clinical setting simply to receive a medication in-person exposes them and their loved ones to unnecessary risk without clinical benefit, when we as health care providers and more broadly as a country should be utilizing every possible strategy to decrease our transmission rates,” she explained.

Gromet stated that her views are not necessarily reflective of Yale University’s views on the matter.

Eleanor Schwarz, a professor of internal medicine at the University of California-Davis, explained to Campus Reform that “given the current state of the pandemic and mifepristone’s robust safety profile, mailing this medication to patients makes perfect sense.”

“More broadly, the goal of our healthcare system should always be to ensure prompt access to treatments needed for time sensitive conditions,” she said.

David Eisenberg, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California Los Angeles, still supports the letter.

“In truth, the REMS governing mifepristone is always a barrier for people who need access to timely abortion care,” continued Eisenberg. “While the delays imposed by REMS impose health risks for patients, the in-person provision also poses serious health risks to staff and healthcare providers like me too.”

Jessie Hill, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, told Campus Reform that the measure “remains necessary.”

She explained that in December, a Maryland court decided that “the pandemic conditions are worse than before and that the requirement should remain suspended.” 

However, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in January.

“The virus is still extremely prevalent and transmission rates are still near their peak. The in-person pick-up requirement is a medically unnecessary bureaucratic restriction that should not be applied even in non-pandemic times,” Hill said. “Studies have shown that the drug is very safe and can be taken safely with remote physician supervision.”

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The FDA lists cramping and vaginal bleeding as “expected effects” of mifepristone usage. The agency states that very heavy vaginal bleeding that requires medical attention can sometimes result from mifepristone.

Mothers are legally permitted to use the abortion pill to end their pregnancies through 70 days of gestation. Babies have a heartbeat 21 days into a pregnancy.

Campus Reform reached out to the FDA for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft