ACP Lauds Small but Key Victories in Efforts to Improve Access to Reproductive Health Care

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Members are encouraged to advocate against laws restricting access and to proactively urge lawmakers to ensure protection of reproductive health care

Jan. 27, 2023 (ACP) — The American College of Physicians is encouraged by recent news regarding access to medication abortion and courts pushing back on the constitutionality of state abortion bans. These regulatory changes and court rulings align with ACP advocacy to ensure access for all patients to the full range of reproductive health care services.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the postal service can continue to deliver medications that can induce abortion, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now allows certified retail pharmacies to dispense such medications to patients who have a prescription.

In the United States, medication abortion accounts for more than half of all abortions provided, according to a February report from the Guttmacher Institute. In 2021, the FDA permanently lifted its in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone, paving the way for filling these prescriptions via mail pharmacies, explained Josh Serchen, ACP associate for health policy.

“In response to this policy change, several states passed laws prohibiting the mailing of medication abortion,” he said.

But the recent DOJ guidance will help with increasing access to medication abortions. “Allowing medication abortion to be provided through the mail allows for increased access, particularly for those who live far distances from pharmacies and clinics authorized to dispense these drugs or who may have transportation limitations that prevent them from physically picking up a prescription,” Serchen said.

In addition, in a Jan. 5 ruling, the South Carolina Supreme Court declared that the state's ban on abortions performed after six weeks of pregnancy was unconstitutional because it violated the state constitution's right to privacy.

ACP has been active in weighing in on legal challenges to state restrictions on abortion, including joining an amicus brief with other medical societies that urged the court to overturn South Carolina's six-week ban, Serchen said.

These are encouraging signs, but there is still a lot of work to be done, he added.

“With a divided Congress, reproductive health policy will largely be determined in state legislatures and by the judiciary, so wins such as these are critical to preserving and protecting access to abortion on a state-by-state basis,” Serchen said.

ACP is concerned, however, with a recent decision by the Idaho Supreme Court that upholds a more restrictive ban that will prevent patients in that state from accessing abortion services starting at conception and threatens health care professionals who perform abortions with legal action, Serchen said.

There is advocacy to be done in all states, whether access to abortion is currently under threat or not, Serchen noted. “We urge our members to not only push back against laws restricting the provision of abortion services, but also to proactively urge state lawmakers to enshrine protections to abortion in their state laws and constitutions,” he said.

ACP members have access to a comprehensive toolkit on the ACP website that provides information on the current state of reproductive health care access in the United States, ACP policy on the issue and customized state-level advocacy letters that can be sent to state officials.

Serchen added: “ACP will continue to advocate with lawmakers and other policymakers to restore the right to access reproductive services for all Americans.”

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