It just got easier for women across the United States to get abortion pills. The FDA announced Thursday that it’s easing up on restrictions on how women can access chemical abortion drugs, which end pregnancies of up to 10 weeks.
In April, the FDA announced that it would temporarily suspend the requirement that women be prescribed abortion pills in person; this week, the agency said it’s making the lax regulations permanent, meaning women can simply schedule a telehealth appointment to be prescribed the pills and then receive them by mail.
This doesn’t mean that getting a chemical abortion will be easy in every state, however. The New York Times reports that earlier this year, “six states banned the mailing of pills, seven states passed laws requiring pills to be obtained in person from a provider, and four states passed laws to set the limit on medication abortion at earlier than 10 weeks’ gestation,” according to Elizabeth Nash of the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute.
While pro-abortion groups applauded the FDA’s move as a win for abortion access, others are worried about what this could mean for women’s health and safety. “The Biden administration policy allows for dangerous at-home, do-it-yourself abortions without necessary medical oversight,” said the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List in a statement. The group cited a study that found that “the rate of abortion-related emergency room visits following a chemical abortion increased by more than 500 percent from 2002 through 2015.”
This news may also mean more hospital visits for women whose health is threatened by inducing chemical abortions. If more women are prescribed abortion pills to take at home, it’s likely that many of them will suffer adverse physical, emotional, and psychologial effects in silence. The FDA reports that side effects include “nausea, weakness, fever/chills, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, and dizziness,” and the agency “has received reports of serious adverse events in women who took mifepristone.” First Choice Women’s Resource Centers also notes that “in a chemical abortion the fetus is usually expelled while you are alone. For some women this is very traumatic.”
The popularization of abortion pills could have broader implications. One study showed that many women would prefer not to know if they were pregnant, revealing interest instead in taking abortion pills under the guise of “missed-period pills” just in case. These misleadingly named abortion pills, which would not require a doctor to confirm pregnancy, could be viewed as just another form of birth control—and the relaxed restrictions on abortion pills could make the marketing of this deception even easier.
A possible increase in chemical abortions, as the implications of Roe v. Wade are being reconsidered by the Supreme Court, also means that prolifers will need to remind abortion advocates that all life is valuable—even after just a few weeks, and even if some prefer to ignore it.