- The FDA made regulatory changes this month that will allow more access to pills that can end a pregnancy.
- Both CVS and Walgreens announced that they plan to offer the medications.
- However, the pharmacies need to get approved before they can legally distribute the medications.
Retail pharmacies will now be able to fill prescriptions for mifepristone, the first of two medications taken for medication abortions, aka the abortion pill.
The Food and Drug Administration revealed the regulatory changes this month and reproductive health advocates applauded the update that could expand access to abortion.
Both CVS and Walgreens announced that they plan to offer the medications, however, the pharmacies need to get approved before they can legally distribute the medications.
It’s unclear when, exactly, this will happen, but once pharmacies get approved, patients seeking medication abortions will be able to pick up the abortion drugs — which will still require a prescription — at their local pharmacies.
Sara Ainsworth, JD, the senior legal and policy director for the reproductive justice organization If/When/How, says the regulatory change will significantly improve access.
“Now, if you think about it, a patient who gets their pills either from a local clinic or is doing it through telehealth can now pick up their prescription at their local pharmacy instead of having to either travel to get them in-person or to go to a specialized pharmacy or to wait until those mediations arrive in the mail,” said Ainsworth.
There are two ways for people living in a state that restricts abortions to access the abortion drugs in a state that permits medication abortion.
The first is to go through a provider in the state you wish to get the drugs in. Once you meet with them, they can call the prescription in and you can pick up the medications at a nearby pharmacy.
You can find providers that offer prescriptions for abortion medications, along with their availability and contact information, at AbortionFinder.org and INeedAnA.Org.
According to Ainsworth, both of these websites do an excellent job of providing up-to-date information about abortion care providers.
The other option is to use a telehealth service.
When using telehealth services, you’ll consult with a healthcare provider digitally who can call the prescriptions in at a pharmacy in a state that permits abortions.
Patients would then travel to the pharmacy to pick up the medications.
“For people traveling, it will hopefully make the process quicker so there’s less time out of the state, there’s less financial burden on you to have to stay longer — that’s what the hope is,” says Ainsworth.
There are many abortion funds that provide financial assistance to help with the travel, lodging, procedure, meals, and childcare costs associated with getting an abortion. To learn about abortion funds or find a fund, check out the National Network of Abortion Funds.
Some of the more well-known funds include The Brigid Alliance, Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, The Chicago Abortion Fund, and The National Abortion Federation.
Not really, according to Ainsworth.
You can safely travel out of state to get the abortion medications. “They have a constitutional right to do that — they have the right to travel, they’re not violating laws when they do that,” Ainsworth said.
The vast majority of states that ban abortion have laws stating that people who get an abortion cannot be criminalized, according to Ainsworth.
“Overall, going to get your abortion in another state is an extremely low-risk legal activity,” says Ainsworth.
Jessie Hill, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University who specializes in reproductive rights, says that while abortion medications are safe, rare complications can occur that may require medical attention.
Although patients will not have violated any criminal laws by taking the medications, there could be consequences at hospitals in states that restrict abortions, says Hill.
Healthcare providers could, in theory, alert police, child protective services, or fail to provide care due to fears they could be implicated in an illegal abortion, according to Hill.
That said, patients do not have to disclose that they took the medications.
“It’s generally not possible to tell if a person is having a miscarriage or had a medication abortion, so patients don’t necessarily need to disclose this information,” Hill said.
In addition, in certain places like Texas, people who help a pregnant person get an abortion — think: someone who transports the pregnant person to and from the procedure — can be penalized under SB 8.
If you have any questions or concerns about the legal risks associated with traveling to get the abortion medications, you can reach out to lawyers at If/When/How through the organization’s helpline at ReproLegalHelpline.org.
Another option is to use a telehealth service that can ship the abortion medications to you.
Plan C details different ways people living in states that restrict abortions can get the abortion medications via telehealth and mail-order services. Some of the tactics Plan C recommends include mail forwarding services and using a friend’s address.
There are a handful of online services — including Choix, Wisp, Full Circle Health Center, Hey Jane, Lilith Care, — that send the medications to locations in states that permit abortions, according to Plan C.
In addition, Aid Access, which is not federally regulated, ships the abortion medications to all 50 U.S. states.
“While all patients who sign up for care with Choix must have a shipping address within one of the states we serve, we do not require in-state IDs to treat patients,” Choix’s CEO Cindy Adam told Healthline.
Ahmad Bani, the CEO of the sexual and reproductive health telehealth company Wisp, says that Wisp prescribes the medications to patients who are physically present in a state where medication abortion is legal — regardless of what their primary address is.
Bani recommends that patients take note of a nearby health clinic — in the state they’re visiting — in the event they experience a rare complication so they can safely access care if needed.
“It’s important to reiterate that current laws around medical abortion indicate where you need to be physically present to have medical abortion shipped to you, rather than where you are when your primary address is,” Bani said.
Retail pharmacies will now be able to fill prescriptions for mifepristone, the first of two medications taken for medication abortions. There are two ways for people living in a state that restricts abortions to access the abortion drugs in a state that permits medication abortion: meet with a provider in a state that permits medication abortion or utilize telehealth services and travel to pick up the medications.