Judge denies Trump administration request to enforce in-person pickup requirement for abortion pill

A federal judge denied a request from the Trump administration to reinstate a longstanding rule requiring that people seeking abortion pills obtain them in person in a health care setting. 

U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang declined to lift his earlier order blocking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from enforcing the policy during the pandemic, siding with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued the requirement needlessly exposes patients to COVID-19 risk.

That means during the pandemic, mifepristone can continue to be obtained by mail or delivery, including through mail-order pharmacies. 

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Under the injunction, the FDA cannot enforce the rule until 30 days after the end of the public health emergency. It’s not clear yet when that will be.  

The requirement that mifepristone be dispensed in person has been in place since the FDA approved the pill in 2000. 

The ACLU, representing the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other groups, sued the Department of Health and Human Services and the FDA in May, challenging the enforcement of the rule during the pandemic. 

Chuang issued a preliminary injunction in July, blocking the administration from enforcing the rule. 

The Trump administration asked for a stay of the injunction, arguing circumstances had changed and a pause in enforcement was not necessary because the pandemic had improved. 

However, the judge wrote in his opinion Tuesday that “the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant health risk necessitating the preliminary injunction.” 

The abortion pill is typically used to end early pregnancies. ACOG and other expert groups have long argued that the pill is safe and does not require in-person dispensing to patients. 

Mifepristone is the only drug the FDA requires patients to pick up in person, according to the ACLU.