U.S. FDA to allow abortion pill by mail permanently

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen outside of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, Maryland, U.S., August 29, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday said that it would permanently ease restrictions on a pill used to terminate early pregnancies, making it easier to obtain the medicine through the mail.

The decision comes as the right to obtain an abortion, established in the 1973 Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade, hangs in the balance.

As a result of the FDA rule change, patients will no longer need to go to a clinic, medical office or hospital in person to receive the medication, generically known as mifepristone, but can opt to receive the pill through the mail from a certified prescriber or pharmacy.

The change is likely to add to the intense U.S. political debate over abortion. Conservative Supreme Court justices indicated in Dec. 1 oral arguments over an abortion ban in Mississippi at 15-weeks of pregnancy that they are open to either gutting Roe or overturning it entirely. A decision is due by the end of June.

The restrictions on the pill have been in place since the FDA approved the drug in 2000 and were lifted temporarily by the government earlier this year due to the pandemic.

Medication abortion involves two drugs, taken over a day or two. The first, mifepristone, blocks the pregnancy-sustaining hormone progesterone. The second, misoprostol, induces uterine contractions.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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