The FDA has made a regulatory change that allows retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens to offer abortion pills. Here's what that means.
On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the FDA announced that retail pharmacies are now allowed to make abortion pills available to customers. Both CVS and Walgreens, two of the U.S.’s largest pharmacy retail chains, plan to start offering the abortion pill as well.
Previously, mifepristone, which is used in first trimester abortions, was only available via certified mail order pharmacies or from an in-person visit to a doctor or certified medical professional. Now, retail pharmacies can apply to become certified to carry mifepristone.
To be clear, the abortion pill will not be available over the counter. In order to obtain mifepristone, people will still have to get a prescription from a certified health care provider.
All retail pharmacies also have to comply with state laws on abortion, which means that the abortion pill will not be available at retail pharmacies nationwide. In about half of states, abortion bans or restrictions would make it impossible or very difficult for pharmacies to distribute mifepristone.
As far as the certification process, retail pharmacies have to fill out paperwork to be allowed to distribute the abortion pill, and the provider’s credentials must be checked as well, per Kaiser Health News. Some pro-choice advocates have questioned the necessity of the certification, given the safety and efficacy of the drug since it was first approved in 2000. It is unclear how long the certification process would take the major retailers to complete.
Ultimately, the move is a win in terms of medical accessibility, making it easier for both people living in states where abortion is legal and those in nearby states where it is not to obtain the medication they need.
“By allowing brick-and-mortar pharmacies to dispense medication abortion care, the F.D.A. is treating medication abortion like the safe, effective, time-sensitive care that it is,” Kristen Moore, the director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access project said, per New York Times.
There are still 11 states where abortion is illegal, five where it is severely restricted, and at least seven that could impose restrictions or complete abortion bans in the near-future.