A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction that suspends the rule that women are required to see a medical professional in person in order to get the abortion pill during the covid-19 pandemic.
According to the AP, U.S. Theodore Chuang in Maryland found that requiring patients to go in-person to receive medical abortion care creates a “substantial obstacle;” one that is probably not constitutional in light of the pandemic. As the ACLU, who filed the lawsuit, writes:
“Even during the pandemic, the FDA continued to require patients to travel to a hospital, clinic, or medical office to pick up the mifepristone, prohibiting patients who had already been evaluated by a clinician (using telehealth or at a prior in-person visit) from filling their mifepristone prescription by mail.
“The requirement imposes unnecessary COVID-19 risks and other burdens by forcing patients to travel to one of these clinical settings solely to pick up the medication and sign a form, even though, based on safety data, the FDA already permits patients to swallow the pill later at home.”
Per the ruling, providers will be allowed to mail or deliver mifepristone for the duration of the pandemic.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as well as other groups, sued the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA over the in-person rule earlier this year, on the basis that it violated the constitutional right to an abortion and the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The government argued that in-person visits were required to maintain patient safety.
Skye Perryman, the chief legal officer for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said that on the contrary, such restrictions were not medically necessary, and “do not advance the health and safety of patients.”
“Today’s ruling recognizes the hardship and undue burden that many women have faced obtaining essential health care during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Perryman told the AP.
The lawsuit points out that more than 4 million people in the U.S. have used mifepristone and misoprostol to induce abortion. The drug combination accounted for 39 percent of all U.S. abortions in 2017.