Government regulation of the chemical abortion pill has changed dramatically in recent weeks.
Last month, a federal judge ruled that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, an abortion provider should not have to require that a pregnant woman be seen in person by medical staff in order to obtain abortion drugs. Even though it was the abortion industry challenging this existing regulation, not patients, the ruling by Maryland U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang stated that the “in-person requirements” posed a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking abortions. As a result, the ruling allows abortion businesses to sell abortion pills directly to pregnant women without any in-person evaluation.
Expanded access to chemical abortion pills was an important goal for the abortion industry even before the pandemic. In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to make abortion pills available without a visit to the doctor. In 2008, telemed abortions became available in Iowa. During a telemed abortion, women obtain abortion pills after interacting with a physician remotely. As of 2019, Planned Parenthood was offering telemed abortions in 10 states.