House Democrats press Becerra on access to abortion medication


House Democrats are pressing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra to protect and expand access to abortion medication and are asking to meet with members of a key HHS task force after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) increased access to the abortion pill mifepristone last year.

The 12 Democratic congresswomen on the House Oversight and Reform Committee penned a letter to Becerra on Tuesday to urge the Reproductive Health Care Access Task Force, announced in January, to “take immediate action to protect and expand access to medication abortion care in accordance with the recent elimination of the medically unnecessary in-person dispensing requirement for the medication abortion drug mifepristone.”

The lawmakers are referring to the December decision by the FDA to permanently remove the “in-person dispensing requirement” for the abortion pill mifepristone, which allowed patients to obtain the medication by mail. The agency said the move would “reduce burden on patient access and the health care delivery system.”

The decision came after the agency decided not to enforce the in-person mandate during the pandemic after a number of medical groups argued that the regulation put patients at an added risk of contracting COVID-19.

With the in-person dispensing requirement officially gone, House Democrats are calling on Becerra and the federal government to make the medicine accessible, affordable and convenient for patients.

“Now that the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone has been eliminated, the federal government must continue to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that medication abortion is accessible, affordable, and convenient for patients who seek it—including by facilitating the dispensing and safe provision of care via clinics, mail-order pharmacies, retail pharmacies, the mail and other forms of delivery, as well as telehealth,” the lawmakers wrote.

They are specifically asking to meet with members of the Reproductive Health Care Access Task Force to discuss the “urgent work” surrounding access to abortion medication and are asking the key department figures to determine actions to achieve the effort.

They said expanding access to medical abortion services independent of clinics, hospitals and medical offices removes barriers for various patients, including those with less income, financial burdens associated with travel and women who have to arrange child care.

“Facilitating access to medication abortion care is crucial to advancing reproductive justice,” the women wrote.

The Hill has reached out to Becerra’s office for comment.

The call to protect and expand access to abortion medication comes after a year in which access to abortion came under scrutiny.

Texas enacted a law in September that prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy, and the Supreme Court is considering a case regarding a Mississippi law that may limit abortion rights.

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