Let’s Party—Mifepristone Turns 21
If restrictions on abortion care are getting you down, we have something to celebrate. Mifepristone is turning 21!
Mifepristone was actually first created in Europe back in the 1980s, so it has been around forever. But this medication wasn’t actually approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in the United States until September of 2000 –making this the 21st anniversary for this essential medication.
Back in September 2000 I was fresh out of college and working at the National Abortion Federation. When the news broke that mifepristone was approved, a wave of excitement and hope spread across the office. Soon we were laser focused on creating training materials and designing outreach efforts around what could be a new way to mainstream abortion care, widen the pool of abortion providers, and expand access to reproductive health care.
Twenty years later, I am at PRH and we are still at it—advocating, and partnering with doctors, researchers and communities on the ground to increase access to this safe and effective method of ending a pregnancy. Medication abortion now accounts for more than 1/3 of abortions in the United States. And advances in research over the last two decades have expanded its use up to 11 weeks of pregnancy and reduced the amount of medication required while maintaining an extremely high safety and efficacy record!
Looking for even more cause for celebration? September also contains both Telehealth Awareness Week and the Abortion Justice Week of Action, a partnership that could not be more well suited. Medication abortion through telehealth has expanded widely in recent years, helped in part by the overall expansion of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know medication abortion care can be offered safely and effectively via phone or video visits, and telehealth increases options for people in rural communities, those with disabilities who may have difficulty traveling, and for those already experiencing the least access to care in their communities because of systemic failures -people of color and people with low incomes.
New startups like CHOIX, Hey Jane, and Abortion on Demand are just a few examples of organizations available to connect pregnant people with information on pregnancy options and to provide medications through the mail for those that choose it.
Of course, haters gonna hate. Medication abortion is specifically banned from telemedicine in 19 states, and while telehealth was expanding everywhere during the pandemic, states and the federal government were trying to shut it down when it came to abortion care. These state imposed barriers to mifepristone come in addition to the numerous medically-unnecessary restrictions like waiting periods, biased counseling, parental involvement requirements and TRAP laws on providers in many states.
Luckily the Biden administration decided to lift the in-person requirements for medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is currently reviewing a request to remove in-person restrictions permanently. Medical and public health organizations agree-it is long past time to drop these arbitrary restrictions.
Join us in celebrating 21 years of mifepristone in the US by letting the lawmakers know that removing these barriers is important to protecting communities and families’ access to care during COVID-19 and beyond.
Pregnant people should be able to receive care in the way that makes the most sense for them, either at a health center, at a pharmacy, or at home.
Anita Brakman, Senior Director for Education, Research & Training